President Donald Trump on Tuesday dodged responsibility for a botched mission he ordered in Yemen last month, placing the onus on the military and Barack Obama’s administration instead.
Bill Owens, the father of Chief Petty Officer William “Ryan” Owens, the Navy SEAL who died in the operation, demanded an investigation into his son’s death over the weekend. Owens further revealed he couldn’t bear to meet Trump at the airport as Ryan’s casket was carried off the military plane last month.
Asked about the matter during an interview with Fox News’ “Fox ‘n’ Friends,” Trump repeatedly said “they” were responsible for the outcome of the mission, in reference to the military.
“This was a mission that was started before I got here. This was something they wanted to do,” he said. “They came to me, they explained what they wanted to do ― the generals ― who are very respected, my generals are the most respected that we’ve had in many decades, I believe. And they lost Ryan.
“I can understand people saying that. I’d feel ― ‘What’s worse?’ There’s nothing worse,” he added. “This was something that they were looking at for a long time doing, and according to [Defense Secretary Jim] Mattis it was a very successful mission. They got tremendous amounts of information.”
The raid yielded no significant intelligence, U.S. officials told NBC News on Monday. Earlier this month, however, Pentagon officials said it produced “actionable intelligence.” So, too, did White House press secretary Sean Spicer, who initially called the raid “highly successful.”
“I think anyone who undermines the success of that raid owes an apology and [does] a disservice to the life of Chief Owens,” he said earlier this month. “The raid, the action that was taken in Yemen was a huge success.”
Presidents have traditionally accepted responsibility for their decisions, no matter the circumstances. President Harry Truman popularized the words, “The Buck Stops Here” and kept a sign of the phrase on his desk in the Oval Office. His successors took those words to heart, accepting ultimate responsibility in the wake of some of the nation’s biggest mishaps.
“I’m the president. And I’m always responsible,” President Barack Obama said in 2012 following an attack on a U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, in which four Americans died.
“In case you were wondering, in any of your reporting, who’s responsible? I take responsibility,” he said again in 2010 after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf.
President George W. Bush in 2005 owned up to his administration’s failings in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, admitting that “the federal government didn’t fully do its job right.” And he accepted responsibility for his costly decision to go to war with Iraq in 2003, despite faulty intelligence.
President Ronald Reagan in 1987 owned up to his administration’s dealings amid what is known as the Iran-Contra scandal, telling the nation in a prime-time address from the Oval Office that he took “full responsibility” for his administration.
“As angry as I may be about activities undertaken without my knowledge, I am still accountable for those activities,” he said. “As disappointed as I may be in some who served me, I’m still the one who must answer to the American people for this behavior. And as personally distasteful as I find secret bank accounts and diverted funds - well, as the Navy would say, this happened on my watch.”