President Barack Obama has one amazing and infuriating trait for every political analyst following him and everyone who ever voted for him and everyone who’s ever worked against him: Incredible timing.
Obama gets beat up over and over again in the press and from Republicans and their minions in the public. Then somehow some way, just when it looks like he’s never going to recover, he gives a speech, makes a deal or pulls off a stunt that puts everyone back on their heels collectively, asking “How long has he been planning that?”
With his announcement Sunday that U.S. special operations forces had hunted down and killed Osama bin Laden, Obama proved once again that he is the master of the last minute political save.
Heading into last week Obama’s political fortunes seemed at their usual tenuous level. The Democrats had survived the budget battles with Republicans without totally capitulating everything they claimed they stood for, but at the same time bigger problems were just over the horizon. In late April gas prices started surging unexpectedly, slowing our sluggish economic outlook, even worse race baiting reality T.V. toupee salesman Donald Trump was gobbling up all available airtime again dredging up the boogeyman that Obama wasn’t born in the United States. What’s a president to do?
Obama broke out with the triple political karate chop laying waste to his political foes and they still don’t know how he did it. He started last Thursday by releasing his “long form” birth certificate, which effectively made “birthers” look even more ridiculous. It’s one thing to claim this is a movement of junior genealogists who figured out where Obama was born when no one else had, but now in the face of even more evidence they have to become part time forgery analysts as well. No one is going to believe that one.
Then Obama went to the White House Correspondents’ dinner and laid so much wood to Trump in the president’s comedic speech that The Donald will be pulling splinters out of his face for months. Which will give him just enough time to find an excuse to drop out of the race. Finally on Sunday night Obama releases the final salvo of his “Take ‘em to the bridge” political tour and takes credit for killing Osama bin Laden. The facts are clear, Obama managed to do in two years what Bush couldn’t figure out in eight.
Military intelligence had long assessed that Osama was more of an ideological leader than a field general and mastermind so even if he is still alive, as some believe, he’s no more dangerous now than he was for the last five years living in a cave. No matter how you spin it, no matter what realistic or conspiratorial perspective one has on the announcement of bin Laden’s death it ultimately will not affect the fact that we won’t see him again in the public eye.
So the real question now is what happens next? With Obama having taking out Osama bin Laden it radically improves his already formidable chances of being re-elected next year, so that’s off the table. However what we can hope for is that perhaps this surgical military strike against America’s most wanted will give us time to consider the relative merits of the two wars and millions of lives we’ve cost America and the world in pursuit of this man and his supporters. Over 40,000 men and women have died in Afghanistan or Iraq on our side and another half million in the home country. With the death of bin Laden wouldn’t it be a good time for the nation to settle down and re-evaluate our Middle East policy? Perhaps trim some military fat?
In the end the president has been busy fixing the economy passing health care reform and fending off oil spills. I think I can wait a while for him to make his next move. They’re usually pretty good.