Politics & Government

Obama praised by (some) S.C. Republicans

Wednesday Sept. 9, 2009 - Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., center, points and says "You lie!" as President Barrack Obama addresses a Joint Session of Congress concerning healthcare, in Washington.
Wednesday Sept. 9, 2009 - Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., center, points and says "You lie!" as President Barrack Obama addresses a Joint Session of Congress concerning healthcare, in Washington. Melina Mara, Washington Post / AP

WASHINGTON — Some — but not all — of South Carolina's seven Republican members of Congress offered rare praise of President Barack Obama on Monday for authorizing the special forces raid that killed Osama bin Laden.

Sens. Lindsey Graham and Jim DeMint, along with freshman Reps. Mick Mulvaney and Jeff Duncan, commended Obama for the high-risk operation at a heavily fortified compound in Abbottabad, 50 miles north of the Pakistani capital of Islamabad.

Rep. Joe Wilson, who famously yelled "You lie!" at Obama in September 2009 as he addressed Congress, didn't so much as mention the president in hailing bin Laden's death. Neither did new Reps. Tim Scott or Trey Gowdy.

Graham asked Vice President Joe Biden to extend his congratulations to Obama in an emotional conversation between the two men Sunday evening, when Biden called Graham at his Seneca home to deliver the news of bin Laden's death.

"Did we get the bastard?" Graham asked.

"We got him!" a jubilant Biden responded.

Graham had a half-hour conversation with Army Gen. David Petraeus, the U.S. commander in Afghanistan and Obama's choice to be the next CIA director, earlier Sunday morning, but the senator could not say on the record whether he'd been tipped to the raid.

In their phone talk, Biden and Graham, who traveled the world together when Biden served in the Senate, turned reflective as they agreed that the United States may face retaliatory attacks from radical Muslims.

"Both of us understand that we can expect reprisals," Graham told McClatchy. "This is not the end of the al Qaida threat, but it is a momentum-builder against extremists."

Graham, a military lawyer and the only member of Congress to have served active duty in Afghanistan and Iraq as an Air Force Reserve colonel, asked Biden to pass on a salute to Obama for having killed bin Laden almost a decade after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

"I said, 'Please tell the president that all of us appreciate his persistence when it comes to being aggressive along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border and going after bin Laden," Graham said. "This is the time to give the president his due."

DeMint, a conservative leader who has branded Obama a socialist, also commended the president.

"The death of Osama bin Laden at the hands of American forces is not only a great victory in the war on terror but confirmation to freedom's enemies around the world about the inevitable end of a life of terror," DeMint said.

"I offer my heartfelt thanks to everyone responsible for (this) news: our courageous armed forces, dedicated law enforcement and intelligence communities and President Obama for pursuing the necessary policies to bring about today's success."

Mulvaney, an Indian Land Republican who defeated former House Budget Committee Chairman John Spratt by tying him to Obama, gave a shout-out to the commander in chief.

"I commend President Obama, President Bush and their teams for their efforts," Mulvaney said. "But most of all, I congratulate our nation's intelligence and military personnel, who are primarily responsible for this triumph and who understand that this is a great milestone in a fight against radical extremism that is still far from over."

Duncan, a Laurens Republican, used similar laudatory language.

"I commend President Obama, former President Bush, the United States military and our intelligence community on a job well done," Duncan said. "Osama bin Laden's death is a victory for freedom around the world. This is a day to celebrate justice and join together in national unity, but also a time to remember all those who perished on 9/11 and during the war on terror."

The S.C. congressional delegation's only Democrat, House Assistant Democratic Leader Jim Clyburn of Columbia, offered celebratory words.

"This is a great day for America and a tremendous victory in the global war on terror," Clyburn, a close Obama ally, said. "Justice has been served. Congratulations to President Obama, the intelligence community, the team who conducted the successful operation and the thousands of men and women in uniform who have fought over the last decade in the war against al Qaida and its affiliates."

Obama, though, was conspicuously absent from the responses of the three other GOP delegation members.

Wilson, a Lexington Republican, didn't mention Obama in a lengthy statement about bin Laden's death.

"Bin Laden's death proves intelligence in the region was reliable and robust," Wilson said. "The al Qaida leader's demise is a testament to the determination of our military, counterterrorism and intelligence officials."

Scott, a North Charleston Republican, was silent on Obama as well.

"Through the persistence, determination and skill of our military forces and intelligence agencies, we have brought justice to the symbol of modern terrorism," Scott said.

Gowdy, a Spartanburg Republican, read from the same script.

"I join Americans across the country in commending the brave, tireless efforts of the men and women of our armed forces and intelligence community," he said. "Their selfless sacrifice made this possible, and they deserve our deepest gratitude."

(John Monk of The State in Columbia contributed.)