Archive for Monday, May 9, 2011

His ’best night’ and its 2012 implications

May 9, 2011


President Barack Obama’s stunning announcement that U.S. forces had killed Osama bin Laden is first and foremost an enormous American victory that eliminates a vicious adversary who both masterminded anti-Western terrorism and symbolized the dark side of Islamic fundamentalism.

But bin Laden’s death also has important domestic political implications.

Though unlikely to become the centerpiece of Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign, as George W. Bush stressed his post-9/11 leadership in 2004, it provides a powerful boost for Obama’s standing as a strong leader and counters frequent Republican charges that he’s indecisive.

And it shows the problems GOP hopefuls face in challenging an incumbent president, as was clear in the somewhat strained statements several issued after the Obama’s surprise announcement Sunday night.

Obama’s success came against a backdrop of his difficulties in trying to complete the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq, lay the stage for starting a similar drawdown from Afghanistan and cope with the complex Libyan situation without becoming enmeshed in another major war or failing to protect insurgents trying to overthrow Moammar Gadhafi.

Indeed, it may help Obama follow through on his promise to begin withdrawing U.S. forces from Afghanistan this summer.

And his announcement that U.S. forces had killed the modern-day mastermind of international terrorism came just 66 years after the announcement of the death of another purveyor of mass evil, Nazi Germany’s Adolf Hitler.

It also came eight years to the day after Bush famously proclaimed a premature end to military operations in Iraq beneath a sign declaring, “Mission Accomplished.”

Obama asserted, from the outset, that he had made bin Laden’s killing or capture “the top priority of our war against terror,” a statement that could be seen as veiled criticism of Bush for over-stressing Iraq or continuity with his predecessor’s vow to get bin Laden “dead or alive.”

On Sunday, Obama phoned Bush, who responded with a warm statement calling it a “momentous achievement” and congratulating Obama “and the men and women of our military and intelligence communities who devoted their lives to this mission.”

Former Vice President Dick Cheney also commended Obama, as did House Speaker John Boehner, 2008 Obama rival John McCain and some potential presidential candidates, including developer Donald Trump, former Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty.

Other Republicans, including several 2012 hopefuls, either downplayed — or totally withheld — any direct references to Obama, lest they say something too complimentary about the man they hope to unseat.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney congratulated “our intelligence community, our military and the president.”

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum limited their comments to praising military and intelligence operatives.

Though Obama’s poll standings rose immediately, the longer political impact may be harder to figure. After all, domestic issues still expect to dominate the 2012 campaign, and bitter budget battles lie ahead.

But bin Laden’s death gives Obama a tangible boost in one historically accurate measure of presidential re-election prospects: American University historian Allan Lichtman’s system that rates an incumbent in re-election trouble if at least six of 13 “keys” to the presidency turn against him.

Some are pre-determined by such factors as a president seeking re-election and the GOP gaining mid-term election House seats. But others hinge on events, including two on the economy and two on foreign policy.

So far, Obama had done well on one foreign policy “key” by avoiding a foreign or military disaster but less well on the one rewarding a major success. Bin Laden’s death assures him that signal achievement.

It’s just one more reason why David Gergen, a top White House aide for both Republicans and Democrats, said on CNN, “It’s the best night of his presidency.”

— Carl P. Leubsdorf is the former Washington bureau chief of the Dallas Morning News. His email address is


cato_the_elder 7 years, 1 month ago

"It's the economy, stupid."

W.J. Clinton, 1992.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 1 month ago

Republicans will be working tirelessly to further sabotage the economy over the next 16 months, and the buck stops with the president when it comes to things economic.

ferrislives 7 years, 1 month ago

Yea, that's all Bin Laden was, someone that Obama didn't like. It's not he did anything else worthy of his death. I can't believe that a so-called conservative would say that.

pace 7 years, 1 month ago

So you are saying Obama is like me and you are more like Bin Laden. I don't think I ever heard it was just a matter President Obama , just didn't like Bin Laden, Wow. Deep thought, deep. mmmm Well, on one point, I didn't like Bin Laden, didn't know him personally, just heard things.

ferrislives 7 years, 1 month ago

I'm sorry DC. Obama should have stopped everything that he was doing so that he could listen to you conservative one.

You probably also believe that should have gone through the American court system to be paraded in front of the citizens of New York City for what would end up a propanda-creating circus. Yes, you're right! Why didn't anyone think of that?

If GWB had accomplished this, you'd give nothing but praise. You are transparent right now to even the people that normally agree with you. I'll have to remember his new view of yours when you spew more of your drivel on another subject not related to "the chosen one".

cato_the_elder 7 years, 1 month ago

As far as I can tell, Republicans are indeed working tirelessly to fire up the private sector and get government out of the way so that jobs can be created and our economy healed, which will never happen as long as those in charge believe the fallacy that government can ever create long-term, meaningful jobs.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 1 month ago

The wealthiest 1% of Americans have seen their share of overall wealth increase dramatically over the last thirty years, while nearly everyone else has seen their share of overall wealth decrease.

Has that created jobs? No, but for some reason you think repeating the same actions over and over again will somehow yield different results. That's a common definition of insanity.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 1 month ago

The information is readily available. Not that you want it. It wouldn't confirm your ideological fantasies.

tolawdjk 7 years, 1 month ago

Maybe someone "in the biz" can answer this, but what is the process by which you put your former jobs in your by-line? Is it only for ex bureau chiefs or can someone write in something like "By Slappy McFishface, Former McFlurry operator, McDonald's #452, San Diego, California".

When does a by-line become a resume?

Flap Doodle 7 years, 1 month ago

The usual suspects are pumping this all they can to divert attention from the unemplyment rate taking an upward bounce.

beatrice 7 years, 1 month ago

Indeed. How dare any Americans attempt to celebrate the murder of bin Laden. I mean, what are real Americans thinking by saying anything nice about the President for giving the order to move on the murderer of so many. We should only be talking about jobs and ignore this trivial stuff. Time to move on already -- it has been an entire week after all!

On the bright side, the sale of so many American flags probably helped the economy a litte bit.

Scott Drummond 7 years, 1 month ago

And the usual suspects are pumping the rate, and trying to distract from the fact that April saw the strongest private sector hiring since 2006. This year's private sector hiring is more than 850,000 jobs.

BigPrune 7 years, 1 month ago

Obama isn't indecisive? To release Osama's death photos or not comes to mind.

Obama has ADD

beatrice 7 years, 1 month ago

He decided not to release them. Decision made. Kind of like when Palin decided to quit being governor after half a term. Decision made.

beatrice 7 years, 1 month ago

Palin is named in this story (6th paragraph from the bottom) as one of the Republicans who might run for president against Obama in 2012. Like Big Prune, Palin also spoke out against Obama's decision to not release the photographs of the dead bin Laden. So yes, we actually were talking about Palin.

Since Palin remains popular with a certain segment of the population and is often mentioned as a possible candidate in 2012 by professional political commentators, then she seems like fair game for discussion in stories about the next election, at least until she says she isn't running.

beatrice 7 years, 1 month ago

I do find those trying to give Bush credit for the death of bin Laden to be rather humorous. We should give credit to Bush for killing bin Laden, but the current state of the economy is fully on Obama. Too funny.

Scott Drummond 7 years, 1 month ago

And bin Laden's successful attack, of course, was President Clinton's fault, not bush's.

beatrice 7 years, 1 month ago

A long way to go? Don't worry. Presient Obama will likely have 6 more years to get there.

Kontum1972 7 years, 1 month ago

bush said he didnt know where bin laden was and he really didnt care....and we would not of been in this economic mess if bush hadnt given away the SURPLUS Clinton left behind....i feel u forgot about that little screw up......

Olympics 7 years, 1 month ago

What Do Tea Partiers Hate More? Debt or homos? Silly question.

The Tea Party: same old scared, hateful bigots, brand new bag.

jaywalker 7 years, 1 month ago

"Other Republicans, including several 2012 hopefuls, either downplayed — or totally withheld — any direct references to Obama, lest they say something too complimentary about the man they hope to unseat."

Well, duh. As if the smell would be any different if the shoe was on the other foot. But let's make it sound kind of shady, as if average Americans are too freakin' stupid to read between the lines.

Exceptional waste of column space. It was a fantastic coup for the President, but I'm disheartened to learn that the intel was solid in February 'cept he waited 'til May to go get 'em. Lucky the scum was stayin' put. Woulda liked to think that Pres. Obama would have learned from Clinton's boner, but I guess not. Shame.

Fact is, successes like this have very little to do with the President. And it's staying power will be like a foul wind in the wind. Nineteen months is a long time, and questionable gas pricing coupled with an inevitable tsunami-ish inflation is on the horizon. Good luck and Godspeed. (that's for everyone!)

Richard Payton 7 years, 1 month ago

Watch Sean Hannity on Wednesday night and I bet Newt G. (former speaker of the house) announces his bid to run for the President of the United States.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.