One year ago this evening, I went into my bedroom and turned on the television. I was probably planning to watch some baseball highlights, but the tv was on CNN and before I could change the channel, my attention was seized by the news crawl and discussion that President Obama had an announcement coming up from the White House.
I don’t exactly recall what my initial reaction to that news was, though I do remember that it did make me a bit nervous. Those first thoughts didn’t center on the possibility that American forces had captured or killed Osama bin Laden, but very quickly that was being discussed by those on television. Quickly too, came leaks that the announcement would be what I and millions of others had hoped and dreamed for since September 11, 2001–that Osama bin Laden had been killed. I told my wife and called my brother and my parents, who hadn’t heard the news yet, and I then watched with a pride tempered by sobriety as President Obama announced that a raid by Navy SEALS had found bin Laden and that he was now dead.
My six-year-old daughter–who celebrated her seventh birthday the next day–was asleep and she knew little if anything about bin Laden, so I didn’t go upstairs to her room. But I did enter my sons’ darkened room to share history. My then-11-year old was not even a year-and-a-half old on 9-11-2001. I was pushing him in his stroller on a remarkably gorgeous Tuesday morning when I heard on my Walkman that airplanes had crashed into the Twin Towers in New York City. Concerned, but still not able to imagine how destructive that day would be, I walked home with him and then spent the next twelve hours watching the horror of the attacks and their disorienting aftermath. Both he and my younger son–who was conceived less than a week after 9-11–knew well the events of that day and they were excited that not only had this bad person been punished, but that their dad shared the breaking news with them.
An hour or so later I posted my thoughts for this site. Also entitled, “Justice has been done”, I wrote,
Sixty-six years and one day after the death of Adolf Hitler, we elatedly welcome the killing of another of history’s most detestable villains–Osama bin Laden–by U.S. military special forces.
Now one year after bin Laden’s death, America commemorates the anniversary, though it has not dominated or even led the news. Because this is an presidential election year, much of the attention given to it revolves around how it plays politically. Specifically, there have been many examinations of a recent campaign video from President Obama that focuses on the raid and explains how it is evidence for his successful leadership. Critiques of the video from Republicans probe new depths of transparent hypocrisy. Time’s Jon Meacham correctly notes:
Republicans are — forgive the cliché — shocked, shocked to discover that a presidential contender is “politicizing” an important national event. In this sense, “politicizing” might be best translated as “beating us up and we don’t have anything much to say to stop it.” The ad itself raises intriguing, substantive, legitimate questions — and the ferocious, sputtering Republican reaction is proof positive that they know it, or at least suspect it.
The ad’s theme is that Obama made a courageous and risky decision to send in the SEALs. Here the President has history and facts on his side: it was a courageous and risky call. Had the mission failed, had it been another Desert One, the very people now criticizing the President for trumpeting the achievement would be beginning their second year of excoriating Obama for weakness and fecklessness. And anyone weighing whether to re-elect the President should take the bin Laden operation into account: it is a powerful exhibit that Obama is a steely Commander in Chief — a critical test for many Americans.
Michael Tomasky of The Daily Beast and Newsweek adds:
It couldn’t be more hilarious, watching these Republicans rend their garments over the Obama administration’s bin Laden video. Imaging the paroxysms we’d have been forced to endure if George W. Bush had iced the dreaded one is all we need to do to understand how hypocritical it all is. But what obviously gets under Republicans’ skin is not the fact of this video’s existence, but the fact that Barack Obama got him and they didn’t, which destroys their assumption of the past decade that they are “the 9/11 party.” And more than that—and this is the real story here—it’s the fact that the Democrats don’t appear to be afraid of the Republicans anymore. That, to Republicans, is what’s truly unacceptable.
One does not need to be a supporter of President Obama to admit that the pursuit and killing of bin Laden was a great personal success for his presidency. It was an enormous risk that not all–or even most–presidents would have taken. The video does not exploit that, it acknowledges it and places the event in the proper context of the choice in the 2012 election.
The President’s greatest responsibility is not to “manage the economy” or the myriad other tasks for which they receive too much credit or too much blame. It is to make extraordinarily difficult decisions at moments of intense uncertainty to protect the country. Obama made such a decision a year ago by going into Pakistan to take out bin Laden. Not one of the people in office (George W. Bush) or closest to becoming President in 2008 (John McCain, Mitt Romney, Hillary Clinton) supported such a policy. McCain especially mocked Obama’s naivete and foolishness. But they were wrong, and Obama was right. And America and the world are better places because of that.