President Barack Obama has one amazing and incredibly 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, from Republicans and their minions in the public and 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 heels collectively asking “How long has he been planning that?” With his announcement last 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 Barack 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 dredging up the boogeyman that Obama wasn’t born in the United States again. 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 Correspondent’s dinner and laid so much wood to Donald Trump in his 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.
Now this would not be America if we didn’t have a healthy number of skeptics about the Death of Osama but what political end could that skepticism serve? Did Obama order Osama bin Laden killed to advance his career? Of course he did, but it’s also his job to kill the most wanted man in American history next to John Wilkes Booth. Is Osama really dead, or is this whole event a sham? Realistically speaking who knows when Osama bin Laden died or how? If you must question the official story then what difference would it make if he was still alive? 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 Osama bin Laden’s death it ultimately will not affect the fact that we won’t see him in the public eye again.
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 40K men and women have died in Afghanistan or Iraq on our side and another half million in the home country. With the death of Osama, 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 healthcare reform and fending off oil spills. I think I can wait awhile for him to make his next move, they’re usually pretty good.
(Dr. Jason Johnson is an associate professor at Hiram College in Ohio.)