There was a moment in President Obama’s appearance at a fundraiser Tuesday evening in Austin, Tex., that became a topic of much discussion during the week. Peter Nicholas at The Los Angeles Times reported on that moment, at which Osama bin Laden became “an applause line in a presidential campaign speech”:
Bin Laden’s name came up a couple of times in Obama’s address Tuesday evening at a fund-raising event in Austin, Texas. Early in Obama’s appearance, someone shouted out, “Thank you for getting Bin Laden!’’
Obama said that was a “case in point’’ — a reason for voters to let him “finish what we started.’’
Later, Obama ticked off what he described as his administration’s accomplishments: lifting the ban on gays in the military; bringing troops home from Iraq. And then: “And because of the extraordinary bravery of the men and women who wear this nation’s uniform and the outstanding work of our intelligence agencies,’’ Obama said, “Osama bin Laden will never again threaten the United States.’’
The crowd roared.
As Jackie Calmes at The Caucus, and several others, quickly observed, “While Mr. Obama gave credit to others, his implicit share in that credit now seems likely to be a staple of his political message into the 2012 election season.”
Would anyone be upset, or even surprised, that Obama would use one of the most significant events of his presidency to bolster his stature on the campaign trail, where other issues — like the violent and chaotic uprisings and crackdowns in the Middle East and the relentlessly bleak economy — would likely elicit more groans than cheers?
At a post at The Illinois Review, Mark Rhoads paints Obama as a “strutting egoist” who, despite a pledge to the contrary, can not resist the opportunity to gloat:
On May 4, President Barack Obama told reporter Steve Kroft on the CBS 60 Minutes program that he would not release photos of a dead Osama bin Laden because “We don’t need to spike the football” because that might inflame hostility toward America from radical Muslim followers of bin Laden. But after seeing his approval rating in polls take a positive bounce of several points, suddenly spiking the ball and taking victory laps is just fine. … Even with a bounce in popularity for his decisiveness and follow through, Obama is reverting to form. He cannot help himself from over reaching because being a strutting egotist is a lot more fun for him than being a low-profile statesman. Like so many political figures, Obama is often his own worst saboteur of his success. Humility is not something Obama ever does very well.
How’d it play in Texas? Well, no numbers on that, but Bryan Preston at PJ Tatler delivered his own take: “This president came to Texas, gave two very partisan speeches, neglected a disaster zone, and left with bags of cash. And the Democrats who hosted him and gave him a pile of money? They’re fine with it, apparently. Hopefully most Texans aren’t, and will remember how the state’s Democrats consistently put politics ahead of the needs of their own state.”
At Hot Air, Allahpundit is somewhat more understanding, but sees a reasonable limit to the mileage the president, can or should get out of this:
He didn’t bring up Bin Laden himself — an audience member did — but we’re going to be hearing about OBL on the trail from now until election day so we might as well get used to it. And honestly, I don’t begrudge him that. Notwithstanding the fact that any Republican president, McCain included, would have also ordered the raid (Bush twice sent commandos into Pakistan after jihadis), the fact remains that it’s a major feather in his cap and he needs to display those feathers to get reelected. Granted, the left would throw a screaming fit if a Republican president did the same thing, but that’s just how they roll. Most of them are ridiculous frauds whose standards of behavior turn entirely on the party identification of the president. If there’s any single lesson to be gleaned from the first two-plus years of O’s presidency vis-a-vis counterterrorism, it’s that.
Besides, this sort of thing is self-regulating. If he goes too far in spiking the ball over Bin Laden, using his corpse as a de facto campaign prop, it’ll alienate the public and his polls will drop. Remember, almost two-thirds agree with the decision not to show the death photos. People don’t want this being used as a trophy. If he starts treating it too much as a naked applause line, he’s risking a backlash.
On the left, it’s true, some gloating could be detected. At Political Animal, Steve Benen declared, it ain’t bragging when it’s true. And in a brief post titled “Democrats Aren’t Just the ‘Mommy Party’ Anymore,” Taylor Marsh celebrated what she sees as an actual transformation of the image of her favored party: “Presidential reelection Candidate Obama’s got a new applause line and it sings, baby: “Osama bin Laden will never again threaten the United States.”
Dick Polman of the Philadelphia Inquirer was more measured but agreed that the killing of Bin Laden had lifted burdens past from the party’s back: “Obama exorcised the Democratic ghosts.” He continued:
He didn’t screw up — as Bill Clinton did during Black Hawk Down in ‘93, or as Jimmy Carter did, when those rescue helicopters burned in the desert back in ‘80. Much to the Republicans’ dismay, there’s no way they can rhetorically link Obama with the hapless Mike Dukakis, who looked like Snoopy during his infamous military tank ride in campaign ‘88. No, they can’t say about Obama what Bush senior said about Dukakis: “I wouldn’t be surprised if he thought ‘naval exercise’ was something you find in Jane Fonda’s workout book.”
Andrew Sullivan at The Daily Beast thinks Obama can take credit for what went on before the bullets flew — redirecting a Bush policy toward Bin Laden that had gone off track: “The key point in his favor, it seems to me, is not the success of the raid as such, although it seems the commander-in-chief was involved in the minutiae. It was Obama’s decision on winning office immediately to reorient the C.I.A. toward getting O.B.L. after tortured lies had persuaded the Bush administration to conclude he was a figurehead and move on. You think a Republican would hesitate for one second to take credit for that?”
In one of the more thoughtful posts this week, Adam Serwer at Plum Line writes that “Obama’s handling of Bin Laden’s death is exactly right. ”
Obama may come under fire from Republicans for mentioning Bin Laden in his speeches, but it’s unwarranted. The president’s actions following the announcement — from his sober speech to his relatively low-key appearance at Ground Zero — stand in stark contrast to the kind of triumphalism that the last administration engaged in. Bush’s landing on the USS Abraham Lincoln in a flight suit in 2003 and then giving a speech standing in front of a “Mission Accomplished” banner typefied the kind of tasteless war pageantry that Republicans have deployed endlessly over the past ten years, particularly when it comes to 9/11. We’ve come a long way from the days when Bush argued that the “terrorists win” when Democrats get elected. …
This year, the biggest story associated with the upcoming 9/11 anniversary may be the fact that the terrorist who facilitated the deaths of thousands of Americans is finally gone, on the orders of a president Republicans said was too weak to get the job done.
If Obama continues to mention Bin Laden’s death, he may face his own accusations from Republicans that he’s politicizing 9/11. But as long as Obama refrains from spiking the football, so to speak, they won’t have anything to complain about.
At least for the short term, the president may merely be riding a favorable wave of public opinion after a feat that some have opposed, but whose end result few are questioning.
In his column, Polman points to a moment 20 years earlier, the memory of which should warn against a measure of hubris in the Obama camp today:
Anyone who thinks that Barack Obama is home free in 2012 just because he whacked Osama bin Laden would be well advised to revisit 1992.
Eighteen months before that election, George H.W. Bush was assumed to be a cinch for a second term. He had just won the Gulf War by shoving Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait, and his poll approval was in the stratosphere. It appeared that ‘92 was going to be a national-security election, and by tradition that was considered Republican turf. But in the end, voters didn’t care about Saddam. They cared about the recession, and they booted Bush from office in part because he seemed to be out to lunch.
I cite ‘92 as merely a cautionary tale. It’s nuts to think that Obama can win re-election simply because he has established his creds as a gutsy commander in chief. In all likelihood, the hit on bin Laden won’t mean squat in the voting booth. Memories are short in ADD America, and, besides, the guy can only die once. The jobless are hurting every day.
http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/20 … ;emc=thab1
Why didn't you post this as a hub Oly?
Oh, I remember, copying isn't allowed is it.
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