You can almost hear the heavy sigh emanating from the White House press office as it disputes a charge in a forthcoming book by Richard Miniter that President Barack Obama called off the operation to kill Osama bin Laden three times before finally giving the OK. "That is an utter fabrication. It seems pretty clear that Mr. Miniter doesn't know what he's talking about," White House spokesman Joshua Earnest said on Monday, referring to the book Leading from Behind: The Reluctant President and the Advisors Who Decide For Him, due out next month. On Sunday The Daily Caller previewed the book, in which Miniter claims Obama canceled the mission first in January 2011, again in February, and a third time in March, each time at the behest of adviser Valerie Jarrett. "Ms. Jarrett, like the vast majority of the president's senior staff was not read in on the operation on the mission against Osama bin Laden," Earnest said, according to Politico's Byron Tau.
It's a stern denial of a charge that never quite comes into focus. The Caller's David Martosko never explains the three alleged cancelations, and the one instance that he does describe in some detail -- that Obama delayed the May 1 raid by a day because of a weather concern -- just doesn't sound all that damning. Miniter's information comes from an "unnamed source with Joint Special Operations Command who had direct knowledge of the operation and its planning," according to Martosko. As Media Matters pointed out on Monday morning, the most thorough account of the raid so far, by The New Yorker's Nicholas Schmidle, contradicts Miniter's claim. Schmidle reported that Obama and his team didn't start figuring out a plan of action to kill Bin Laden until March. Unfortunately, we don't yet know anything else about Miniter's reporting except what Martosko has written. Miniter's book is due out August 21.