I was sitting in a sports bar in Suburban Cleveland when my phone began to vibrate spastically from several of my texting students. “Obama is about to make a major announcement”……. “ Will there be class tomorrow?” I knew that something big was brewing, every time I was in this bar some major national, political or cultural news seemed to pop off. This was the same bar where I had watched history happen before just a few years ago, so it was no surprise that it was happening again. But I must admit that the shock and surprise that I felt at seeing and watching President Obama’s announcement about Osama bin Laden being captured and killed was deeper than I expected. This is not necessarily a time to celebrate or pontificate, this is a major turning point in the United States and the next 48 hours could change this nations’ fortunes as quickly as that cold morning on September 11th, 10 years ago. For now there are a few things that we’ve learned from Obama’s speech.
1. This is Not Bush’s War Anymore
President Barack Obama is fully invested in the war in the Middle East in a way that is unique and not necessarily any more humanitarian than President Bush. While everyone else stumbled around their words Candidate Obama was very clear during his 2008 run that if ‘actionable’ intelligence came across his desk he would kick in the door waving the .44 at anyone he deemed a threat to the United States. It was cute and nice for Obama to mention that the Pakistani government had ‘helped’ in locating bin Laden if by help he meant got the hell out of the way as we did what we came to do, thank you very much. And while Bush had his tortured justifications for torture Obama revealed his own bag of dirty tricks when he openly announced on national television that yes, he sent a U.S. hit squad after an enemy combatant on foreign soil. It is clear that Obama has his own strategies for how to fight terror and they may be less flashy but they share a similar level of constitution subverting practices with his predecessor.
2. Bush Really Wasn’t Trying TOO Hard to Find Osama bin Laden
The United States armed forces has satellites so sophisticated and high powered they can tell what you had for breakfast from a billion miles in the sky. So it never passed the smell test that the United States was just so dumbfounded trying to find Osama bin Laden after he slipped out of an ambush in Tora Bora in 2001.
Here was a 6 foot tall man who was on dialysis, supposedly living in the mountains between Afghanistan and Pakistan, how hard could it be? Given that by all accounts there was a few months of prep and the actual firefight that killed bin Laden only lasted 40 minutes, it will baffle me and most American voters how Obama managed to do in 2 years what Bush couldn’t figure out in 8. Which leads to the next lesson from Obama’s announcement.
3. Republicans Need to Start Looking at 2016
The Republican field for president in 2012 was already so weak heading into their first debate on May that people were actually taking that carnival barker Donald Trump seriously. President Obama didn’t just capture and kill Osama bin Laden, he announced it on national television and then walked off the podium like “What?” I fully expected him to leave in slow motion with CGI explosions going off behind him he was so gangsta. With Obama capturing Osama, and killing him, and then just announcing it on national television, he just about put away 40 [ercent of what Republicans would run on in 2012. What’s Tim Pawlenty going to say about that? With national security likely off the table as a symbolic issue heading into next year (baring some horrible tragedy) the number of squares the potential GOP nominee can hopscotch to in order to beat Obama just got cut in half.
4. Obama’s Having the BEST.WEEK.EVER.
You always have to be suspicious of October Surprises, convenient fluctuations of terror alerts and random bombings of third world nations when presidents are in trouble (Reagan, Bush II and Clinton respectively) – but whatever hot water Obama was in last week, this man has had the BEST.WEEK.EVER since Thursday. Hovering at 45 percent in most national polls, bad news breaking about our national GDP and unemployment not budging, Obama just flipped the script on everyone. First he breaks out with his long form birth certificate further demonstrating that “Birthers” belong on the racist short bus. Then he just straight plays the dozens all over Donald Trump at the National Correspondent’s dinner and backs it all up by taking out Osama bin Laden with “Special Ops” no less. It’s almost enough to make you forget $4 gas prices!
5. Millennials Get Their Closure
If you are a millennial (1985 to 2005) or work with them, you know that they are defined in part by two large an painful events. The Columbine shootings of 1999 and the 9-11 attacks and subsequent wars from 2001 on. For folks born in the late 80’s to early 90’s American life has seen a series of prestige and culture damaging occurrences one after another. The capture of Osama bin Laden, by the president who dared call for hope and change is one of the few examples of things getting ‘better’ that they’ve been able to see in life.
And in a larger sense for the thousands of Americans who lost people, physically or emotionally in the 9-11 terror attacks it’s a little bit of closure to see at least ONE of the men responsible face justice.
In the end, it’s not quite clear where Obama will take the nation after his big announcement. Will this usher in an era of public re-evaluation of our war on terror now that the figurehead mastermind is dead? Will it simply be a another skin he nails to the wall like healthcare and financial reform that he wants to show off for 2012? Only time and poll numbers will tell as the chattering classes across Washington and New York try to figure out the new ‘paradigms’ that are in play after tonight. I’ll tell you one thing though, Obama is sleeping well tonight, he got his Osama and now it’s up to everyone else to figure out just what that means.
This article originally appeared in TheLoop21.com under the headline “Obama Gets Osama: 5 Things We Learned From Last Night’s Announcement.”