This is a rush transcript from "Journal Editorial Report," May 5, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
PAUL GIGOT, HOST: This week on the "Journal Editorial Report," President Obama's bin Laden bragging rights. Was this week's victory lap smart politics? And would other president's have done the same?
Plus, Paul Ryan takes on the Catholic left over charges his budget goes against church teaching.
And, a diplomatic crisis overshadows Hillary Clinton's Beijing visit. What the case of blind activist, Chen Guangcheng, tells us about Obama's China policy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: One year ago, from a base here in Afghanistan, our troops launched the operation that killed Usama bin Laden. The goal that I set to defeat Al Qaeda and deny it a chance to rebuild is now within our reach.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GIGOT: Welcome to the "Journal Editorial Report." I'm Paul Gigot.
That was President Obama Tuesday marking the one year anniversary of the death of Usama bin Laden in a surprise trip to Afghanistan. It is just one of the ways the president and his re-election campaign have commemorated the killing. Also, releasing an ad suggesting rival Mitt Romney might not have done the same.
In a Wall Street Journal op-ed this week, former attorney general, Michael Mukasey, said it is hard to imagine Lincoln or Eisenhower taking such a victory lap.
Judge Mukasey joins me now.
Good to have you back on the program, Judge.
JUDGE MICHAEL MUKASEY, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: Good to be here.
GIGOT: So presidents advertise their accomplishments, especially when they run for election. That is what they do. Why is what President Obama has done different from that tradition?
MUKASEY: Because they say real leadership consists of taking less credit than you deserve and more blame than you deserve. And President Obama, after his election, said that the president he wanted to be most like Lincoln. If you take a look at Lincoln's record, the night after the surrender of Robert E. Lee, he delivered what turned out to be his last speech in which he disclaimed any responsibility for the victory, and, instead, looked ahead to reconstruction, and advocated black suffrage, something that got him killed because John Wilkes Boothe being in the audience outside the White House. Earlier, in his administration -- he took responsibility for the mistakes General McClellan, of defense secretary -- his secretary of defense --
MUKASEY: -- constantly, took responsibility for things that failed, gave credit to others for things that succeeded.
GIGOT: But, let's go back to 2004. President Obama, George W. Bush running for re-election in the wake of 9/11, they ran an ad, his campaign, called "Tested," which, really, advertised what they said was his leadership after the attack on the World Trade Center. And they included some footage of the burning towers. How is this different, what Obama is doing, saying, we got bin Laden finally, how is it different from President Bush taking credit for his post-attack leadership?
MUKASEY: I don't know that he was taking credit as describing something that he had been exposed to that was not of his making and had survived. Here, in the clip you saw, and in the clip you might have shown from his announcement of the killing of bin Laden, it was "I," "me," "I", "My." The perpendicular pronoun was pretty much in evidence.
GIGOT: What about his suggestion, his campaign's suggestion -- I guess he made it personally -- that Romney might not have done the same?
MUKASEY: It is hard to find a word other than outrageous to describe that. And I think the memo that went from Leon Panetta to Admiral McRaven --
GIGOT: This is while --
GIGOT: -- Leon Panetta was CIA director --
GIGOT: -- before the attack, before the raid.
MUKASEY: Right. Describing McRaven's authority as limited to the risk profile that he had presented to the president, is revealing of the attitude that prevailed at time.
GIGOT: How should a commander-in-chief behave? Are you saying Lincoln is the model? Is that what you should do?
MUKASEY: Lincoln is the model. Kennedy is the model. Eisenhower is the model. A lot of people are the model. George W. Bush is the model.
GIGOT: Well -- but you do not think George Bush ever took credit. What about "mission accomplished" banner?
MUKASEY: That is not a banner that he put up. That was put up by other people. And if you look at the remarks he made at the time, they were all by way of giving credit to the troops.
GIGOT: The mistake the president is making is essentially saying, look, this was -- he's taking an exorbitant -- in your view, an exorbitant amount of credit where as, if it had gone wrong, the implication of the memos and things is the blame would have been the people who were executing the policy.
GIGOT: OK. Let me talk to you about another issue. There was -- that has come up in the news this week, which is the -- what happened with the intelligence leading to the bin Laden capture. There's a suggestion by two Democratic Senators, Dianne Feinstein and Carl Levin, that enhanced interrogation techniques, waterboarding and such, did not lead to -- did not produce evidence that led to the bin Laden capture. They put it this way, "The CIA learned of the existence of the courier, his true name and location, through means unrelated to the CIA detention and interrogation program." Based on what you knew -- learned when you were attorney general, is this correct?
MUKASEY: That is a half true designed to irritate anyone who knows the other half.
Yes, the CIA knew about the name before it was disclosed by Sheikh Mohammed. However, that information lay unexploited because it came from an insignificant course. When it came from Sheikh Mohammed after he was subjected to harsh interrogation techniques, they followed it up and found this guy was still active. They went back to Sheikh Mohammed, who by then had his wits about him, and asked him again about this guy and he said, oh, he has been out of it for some time. That was a lie. They knew it was a lie. And because he had lied about it, that enhanced even more the significance of the information. So the information did not become significant until they learned about it from him and its significance was increased by the fact that he lied about it. They learned about it after enhanced interrogation techniques.
GIGOT: So based on your experience, you think the enhanced interrogation techniques have absolutely been critical to the progress we have made against Al Qaeda?
MUKASEY: There were three people subjected to all --all the fuss is about three people subjected to the most extreme form of interrogation.