President Obama’s “Death of Bin Laden” victory tour winds up in New York City today, with an appearance at Ground Zero. It’s amazing how quickly completely his Administration has blown the aftermath of Operation Geronimo. Some media outlets have been frantically trying to manufacture polls that show Obama getting a huge approval-rating bounce, but it’s beginning to look like any gains in his approval rating will be minimal… and in any event, they won’t last very long. His behavior over the past few days demonstrates why.
From the beginning, it was clear that Obama would blow the goodwill of America by demanding it too stridently. His Sunday night announcement was delayed by an hour, long enough for his speechwriters to turn it into a carefully prepared “Claim Of Full Credit For Heroic Deed” form, submitted in triplicate. Obama becomes the latest in a long line of politicians to discover that respect cannot be demanded.
The incredible P.R. catastrophe of the confused, endlessly revised White House account of the bin Laden raid is a natural result of politicians scrambling to control the spotlight, instead of dutifully reporting an important military action to the American public. They confused the idea of shaping a political narrative with the notion of controlling history. In the process, they turned one of the most important missions ever undertaken by the Navy SEALs into a quantum event, in which our heroic soldiers took down a Schroedinger’s Cat who was either armed or unarmed, resisting or surrendering, protected by either a private army or a pack of lightly-armed goons, and either hiding or not hiding behind a woman who was either his wife or daughter, and is now either alive or dead.
Meanwhile, the Administration demanded we celebrate the decisive action of a President who took sixteen hours to make up his mind about launching the attack, during which bin Laden was stitching hundreds of Euros into his clothes and preparing to bolt. They pushed out an “iconic” photo of Obama and his top people watching the raid unfold in real time, then admitted they did no such thing, leaving us all to wonder what they’re staring at in the photo they insisted on turning into America’s desktop wallpaper image.
Obama and his team are so wedded to anti-Bush rhetoric that they could not simply admit he was right about prosecuting the War on Terror, and they were dangerously wrong. Now they are being dragged into making that admission, in root-canal interviews like the one CIA chief Leon Panetta gave to Brian Williams of NBC. This strongly reinforces the impression that they don’t understand what Bush did to make the bin Laden kill possible, and are still determined to make all of their old mistakes. In only a few days, they’ve transformed a spectacular victory in the War on Terror into a happy accident they blundered into, using intelligence they previously treated like a plate of liver and onions set before a screaming child. This leaves Americans to breathe a sigh of relief that at least our special forces troops know what they’re doing.
Refusing to release the bin Laden death photos fits neatly into the atmosphere of arrogance, secrecy, and moral superiority that clings to this White House like barnacles. We don’t need another lecture in how little Obama trusts our judgment, or how much he fears the Muslim world. We have been given many good reasons to mistrust Obama’s judgment. There are some people in the Muslim world who need to be afraid of us. Obama’s failure to understand that does not bode well for the future of the War on Terror.
Osama bin Laden was not some unfortunate fellow who happened to stumble in front of a bullet tsunami. We killed him. We are happy and proud that we killed him. We’ll be equally happy and proud to kill anyone who stands with him. That is not barbarism. It is the violent denial of barbarism. Obama is treating the details of bin Laden’s death like unpleasant business he doesn’t want to discuss in depth with his children. In doing so, he reveals himself as immature and naïve. We will see those photos eventually – Leon Panetta was right about that.
The Democrats clearly think Americans will be foolish enough to ignore all other news, and their memories of the past two years, while they marvel at the brilliance of their beloved President. That would not be true of any President. Even if the SEAL who actually capped Osama reveals his identity and runs for President next year, I’m afraid I’m going to have to hear his positions on the debt ceiling, job creation, and domestic oil production before I can support him. Trust me – I would really want to like those positions, but I won’t like them automatically.
When the glow of bin Laden’s death has faded, all of the things we’ll actually judge Obama on in 2012 – such as unemployment, which just got worse again – will still be there. As we are more stridently instructed to ignore them, we will be less inclined to do so.
Obama will kill his poll “bounce” by looking far too eager to inflate and maintain it, while simultaneously looking confused and secretive about the event which produced the bounce. Humility, reverence for the men who actually pulled off the mission, and appreciation for the bold leadership of his predecessor would have made him look bigger. Instead, he is still the shrinking President, a dwindling figure who vanishes when his policies turn into disasters… and makes disasters out of the occasional good decision, by insisting that we formally certify them as great.
Note: Elapsed time from announcement of bin Laden death until I became the latest commentator to say “Obama” when I meant “Osama”: 3 days, 13 hours, 42 minutes. I’ve corrected the reference.
Update: If you’re going to invite 9/11 families to your big Ground Zero photo op, do not use a form letter.