Obama's sense of timing hits a new high
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On the eve of one of the nation's greatest intelligence triumphs, Commander-in-Chief Barack Obama knew something the rest of us didn't, and it put him in an incredibly good mood.
That upbeat demeanor was on display at Saturday's White House Correspondents' Association Dinner. President Obama's timing was impeccable during a brief comedy bit in which he tortured rival-of-the-week Donald Trump. He was also relaxed when comic Seth Meyers, in one ironically timed barb, mocked C-SPAN's tiny audience and the administration's failure to capture or kill Osama bin Laden:
"People think bin Laden is hiding in the Hindukush," said the head writer for Saturday Night Live, "but did you know that every day from 4 to 5, [bin Laden] hosts a show on C-SPAN?"
The reaction shot of Mr. Obama laughing is priceless. Contrary to the thrust of the joke at his expense, Mr. Obama not only knew where bin Laden was at that very moment, he had already ordered a squad of Navy Seals to kill him.
Flashing what had to be the toothiest smile of his presidency, Mr. Obama was quietly harboring an expectation that he would soon make an announcement about bin Laden that would blow the world's collective mind. He laughed, but only a small number of advisers knew there was ice water behind Mr. Obama's smile.
It was quite a weekend for our 44th president. It may have been the best weekend EVER for a modern president. After taking potential rival Donald Trump's orange scalp during the correspondents' dinner, Mr. Obama announced Sunday evening that American forces had finally cornered and killed bin Laden.
It was such a remarkable turn of events, you could practically hear the craziness deflating from our national politics like air from a balloon as Americans poured into the streets to celebrate. Ding dong, the king of the terrorists is dead!
The death of bin Laden is not good news for those who suspect Mr. Obama is an agent of Islamic extremism. It is not good news for those who insist 9/11 was an inside job. It is a horrible development for those who reflexively disparage the president's patriotism and competence as commander-in-chief. It is a nightmare for those who looked forward to seeing American flags burning across the Muslim world, only to see folks preoccupied with securing their own freedom.
The death of bin Laden is both a national exorcism and an opportunity for Americans to return to the values that once made us a beacon to the world. Because of our fear of another bin Laden terroristic assault, we waged war with a country that didn't attack us.
The cost of multiple wars and occupying two countries has turned us into the world's biggest debtor nation. We routinely engaged in activities we euphemistically call "enhanced interrogation" and "rendition" in defiance of our stated values as a nation. We learned to tolerate places like Gitmo and Abu Ghraib because of our fear of al-Qaida. We followed the terrorists into the darkness and temporarily forgot who we were.
The best thing that could come out of the killing of bin Laden is a full restoration of American civil liberties, along with the political will to revisit the rationale for the wars we've initiated in the last decade.
Mr. Obama has already proven that the intelligent application of American military power and intelligence can rid the world of a notorious terrorist. Now it is time to lead a weary, but grateful, nation into the challenges of a peacetime economy.
Without getting too bloodthirsty about it, I hope bin Laden felt a surge of sheer terror as the Navy Seals closed in on him. Let's hope that while trapped in what he assumed was an impregnable mansion bunker, bin Laden realized that his executioners were Americans and not a splinter group of terrorists trying to bump him off for the notoriety.
Because he was only human, bin Laden must have dreaded his mortality in the seconds before he was shot and his spirit slipped away to whatever fate awaits it. During his last breath, he experienced more humiliation at finally being at the mercy of the "infidel" Americans than pain from his actual wounds. He had every reason to expect his carcass would eventually be paraded around Ground Zero. Instead, he was given a dignified burial at sea.
As a Christian, I acknowledge the sin of rejoicing in the death of an "enemy," but I'm grateful for this small measure of imperfect justice. I do believe in American exceptionalism when it comes to killing terrorists. I may be a failed Christian, but I'm a happy American.
First Published May 3, 2011 12:00 am