Note: I decided to write a second post about a similar topic, so I am combining it with this one. The original post, entitled, “Bin Laden Is Dead, But Al Qaeda Is Not,” is below.
Jack texted me last night around midnight, a little before he ran to the White House, saying, “I think Obama just won reelection.” I don’t think Jack could have honestly known the political ramifications at the time, but he made a good assumption. I would not go so far as to guarantee 2012 for President Obama; however, all signs have pointed in that direction for a while and these events will certainly help.
In 2008, some saw Barack Obama as weak. Many did not want him answering the figurative red phone in the Oval Office at 3am with American security and safety on the line. Hillary was more experienced, more cunning, more realist. McCain was the war hero, a guy who really understood national security. Last Friday evening, when President Obama issued initial orders to begin this operation, he made an audacious move. Just before he departed for storm-ravished Alabama he made one of the gutsiest moves in modern Presidential history, ordering the Navy SEALs to go ahead with the operation. On Sunday, President Obama sat in the Situation Room from 1pm until shortly after 7:30pm, flanked by top brass and senior White House and Administration personnel on all sides. The mission experienced a potentially catastrophic flaw when a chopper had technical failure, leading the SEALs to destruct it, despite having no ride home. Still, Obama went forward. He was bold, he was resolved, and he was entirely Presidential.
Today, the President spoke for a short moment about last night’s historic events before awarding the Presidential Medal of Honor to two recipients. Rather than dwell on a victory, the President moved on to his next accomplishment, rewarding those who have served heroically already (although the Medal of Honor ceremony was scheduled before bin Laden was reported killed).
Tomorrow President Obama will visit Ground Zero in New York City. He will dress casual and look strong but humble. The President consistently stresses his humility, but in light of these events, that humility is complemented with a uniquely Presidential aura. Barack Obama finally looks like the Commander-in-Chief.
It’s definitely far enough from the campaign that this will not make him a shoo-in. However, the President is polling strongly and this is a huge victory in his corner. President Obama has all but won my vote – not because Osama bin Laden is dead, but because he has proved his military bona fides in a way he had not prior.
“Bin Laden Is Dead, But Al Qaeda Is Not”
Posted by David
Last night looked like a scene from a movie. Aaron Sorkin is likely the writer. After a time of national tragedy, American spirits rise and determination is never undermined. The United States military’s finest and most intense, the Navy SEALs, bring the culprit to justice. The President makes a major national address, calm and cool. The media go nuts. Wolf Blitzer’s beard grows a little thicker; John King tears up just a little bit. Thousands of Americans charge the White House, the attack site, and wherever else they can gather in triumph. But, in any such fictional movie, the conclusion would come the next day when the President would finally declare, “boys [and girls] you’re coming home.” Today, however, the War on Terror is no more won than it was yesterday.
It was an exciting night to enjoy that the biggest killer of Americans in American history, and a major symbol of terrorism, is finally dead, but that does not mean the fight is over. Ayman al-Zawhiri will likely succeed bin Laden in the coming days and the American soldiers on the ground will continue to hunt the leader of al Qaeda.
It will be interesting to see how President Obama acts, as Commander-in-Chief, and whether he believes the war is over. It is not possible to analyze properly an event’s impact, particularly such a symbolic event, less than 24 hours after it occurs. Al Qaeda’s response might not be fully clear for days, maybe weeks.
This is really a crazy year in the Middle East: the Arab Spring, Fatah-Hamas reconciliation, potential declaration of a Palestinian state in September, Iran continuing to develop a nuclear weapon, and Osama bin Laden’s killing. Hopefully in not too many months’ time, President Obama will be able to say that the mission is accomplished and he will no longer be a wartime president. For now the fight goes on. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney’s press conference this afternoon is planned to focus almost entirely on the Osama bin Laden killing and should do a good job supplementing the developing story.
Osama bin Laden’s capture and killing are testament to our military’s might and our nation’s endurance, and I was as euphoric as anyone last night, as I still am today. However, it’s important to distinguish humble pride from hubris. There is a small risk of our elation crossing a line from deserved to excessive. We’re praising the terrorist’s capture, not a man’s death, that has to be clear.