There may also be face-saving benefits for Obama in cutting down Snowden, who turned 30 last week. An unsuccessful full-court press for Snowden’s return would only show the limitations of Obama’s international influence.
It’s not the first time a president has tried to reset expectations by first elevating and then playing down the importance of an international fugitive who eluded capture, at least for a time.
President George W. Bush went from putting out a “dead-or-alive” ultimatum for 9-11 terror mastermind Osama bin Laden to dismissing him as “a person who’s now been marginalized.”
“I just don’t spend that much time on him,” Bush said in March 2002.
Candidate Barack Obama pledged during the 2008 presidential campaign: “We will kill bin Laden, we will crush al-Qaida. That has to be our biggest national security priority.”
By January 2009, just days before his inauguration, Obama was saying: “My preference, obviously would be to capture or kill him. But if we have so tightened the noose that he’s in a cave somewhere and can’t even communicate with his operatives, then we would meet our goal of protecting America.”
As it turned out, he got him.
AP Intelligence Writer Kimberly Dozier contributed to this report.
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