Obama’s awkward bragging campaign

He has used other bluffs to their fullest extent. Now the president and his team are playing his  ‘killed Osama bin Laden’ card for all it’s worth. Is it a gamble?

I think so. For many reasons. But first, let me just say I’m very uncomfortable with the president of the United States ‘gloating‘ over this or any other killing, even though this one took out a deadly public enemy who eluded allied forces for about a decade.

With the May 1 anniversary of Osama bin Laden’s killing upon us, the White House is going to great lengths to remind everyone all about it. For starters, there’s Joe Biden’s new stock phrase: “Bin Laden is dead, and General Motors is alive.” Then there’s the ad suggesting that Mitt Romney wouldn’t have had the guts to approve the raid. And it culminates with an interview of President Obama by NBC’s Brian Williams that airs next week from the White House Situation Room, notes Politico. That’s where the now-iconic photo was taken of top officials watching the raid.

“Few presidents have talked about the killing of an individual enemy in such an expansive way,” says the New York Times in a story today about the strategy. It could be a risky one.

It started with a weird and, I think, unpresidential ‘victory lap’ a year ago, as Saturday Night Live captured in a ripe parody. Lately, it’s been ramping up as a campaign boast, and that gets us up to speed, sort of. As much as I don’t want us to be ‘at speed’ with this one.

Senior Obama campaign adviser Robert Gibbs defended the campaign’s use of the event in a recent Web video and in a speech from Vice President Joe Biden. Meanwhile, senior Romney adviser Ed Gillespie characterized the political steps surrounding the death as a “bridge too far.”

Which is the exact term I used when Obama took the already controversial ‘individual mandate’ in his healthcare law (with government requiring citizens to purchase something) to a new level with the HHS mandate (with government requiring citizens to purchase something that violates their conscience).

But I digress…

Team Obama released a video on Friday, partially narrated by former President Bill Clinton, that praised the president’s decision to order the killing of the al Qaeda chief one year from Tuesday and questioned whether Romney would have made the same choice. Biden similarly questioned the former Massachusetts governor in a campaign-style speech on Thursday.

When I first saw it, I found it hard to take seriously or even hard to believe that the president’s team thought it worthy of presidential politics. What would Mitt do? Seriously? You are campaigning on that?

Okay, back to the principled thinking here.

Gillespie, a former aide to former President George W. Bush and former chairman of the Republican National Committee, said utilizing the raid for political purposes is one of the reasons Obama has “become one of the most divisive presidents in American history.”

“He took something that was a unifying event for all Americans, and he’s managed to turn it into a divisive, partisan political attack,” Gillespie said in a separate interview on the same NBC program. “I think most Americans will see it as a sign of a desperate campaign.”

The campaign video received criticism from Republicans, including from 2008 Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain. On Friday, he called the minute-long spot “a cheap political attack ad.”


Biden teed off what will likely remain a talking point from Team Obama through the election in a Thursday address that previewed a potential 2012 slogan.

“If you are looking for a bumper sticker to sum up how President Obama has handled what we inherited, it’s pretty simple: Osama bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive,” Biden said during a speech at New York University, lines Gibbs echoed on Sunday.

The president will pick up the message with what the campaign has billed as the president’s re-election kick-off on Saturday.

So it appears we’ll hear plenty about who and what Obama has killed and allowed to live. An inauspicious strategy, but an unsurprising one, for a campaign used to running on bumper sticker slogans.

UPDATE: Arianna Huffington calls the president’s ‘bin Laden ad’ despicable.

UPDATE II: SEALs slam Obama for using them in election campaign.

What America is rejoicing

Why did they start dancing in the streets in Washington and New York immediately after President Obama announced that Osama bin Laden had been killed in a raid on his compound in Pakistan? Why did young adults in many college towns across the country pour out into the streets to celebrate on Monday as the fever spread? Was this as jarring as it seemed?

Some of us were on the fence about the immense relief…beyond description really…of so long a dry spell of despair and darkness being so suddenly and bracingly snapped with the jolt of Sunday night news flashes that bin Laden was dead. I’ve been focusing lately on the power of the message John Paul II brought to the dispirited Poles that reminded them of their human dignity and what their heritage as Christians ennobled them to do.

That message transfers well and intact to America today. In this nation too, Christianity is the dominant religion of the people, but people have been dispirited and disheartened and in need of a spark to rally the nation around ideals it seems we’ve long dropped in the politically correct halls of academia and the pages of press and very much in the press statements of politicians. Things got called by new names that didn’t really describe their reality. The ‘war on terror’ became an ‘overseas contingency operation,’ and terms like ‘enemy combatants’ were sanitized though they didn’t change and their attempted operations were stopped just short of hitting the homeland again.

Media articles have been pondering the decline of American exceptionalism, the dollar has been weakened and nothing decisive seems to be happening in Washington these days to break the general malaise.

Then, suddenly and unexpectedly, this happened.

And so the US rejoices.

After nearly a decade of anger and fear, America rejoiced Monday at the demise of Osama bin Laden, the terror mastermind behind the horrific 9/11 attacks. Navy SEALs who killed the world’s most-wanted terrorist seized a trove of al-Qaida documents to pore over, and President Barack Obama laid plans to visit New York’s ground zero.

Big media are back to calling him the terror mastermind, and the attack horrific.

Bin Laden’s death after a decade on the run unloosed a national wave of euphoria mixed with remembrance for the thousands who died in the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks. Crowds celebrated throughout the night outside the White House and at ground zero in Lower Manhattan where the Twin Towers once stood. Thousands of students at Penn State University and in other college towns spilled into the streets and set off firecrackers to mark the moment.

I’ve assilmilated this better now, after the initial relief mixed with dismay over some of the rhetoric about this dead man who, granted, has haunted the West and mostly America for so many years. As one priest said about what disturbed him most, “dancing in the streets over killing someone is what they do, it’s not what we do.” Right.

But I came to think about this visceral eruption of relief across America that there was finally a triumph of enormous importance for our troops, as those SEALs descended on that compound for such a daring and critical mission. It’s of enormous importance to much of the world, too.

It’s too great a leap to expect an end to terrorism or a new era of peace, but it’s not too great a hope.

[Vatican press spokesman Father Federico Lombard] reflected upon the crimes Bin Laden stood accused of.

“Osama bin Laden – as we all know – was gravely responsible for promoting division and hatred between peoples, causing the end of countless innocent lives, and of exploiting religions to this end.”…

“Faced with the death of a man, a Christian never rejoices, but reflects on the serious responsibility of each and every one of us before God and before man, and hopes and commits himself so that no event is an opportunity for further growth of hatred, but for peace.”

Amen to that. Let the celebration be about a new resolve toward the tough love that’s going to require. Starting with ourselves, and our leaders who proclaim this as a new rallying call for unity.

May 1, 2011

A day for human dignity.

What a day. It has long been celebrated as ‘May Day’, a workers’ memorial of sorts across the world. For Catholics, it is the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker.

Pope Pius XII…in 1955 he established the Feast of “St. Joseph the Worker”, to be celebrated on 1 May. This date counteracts May Day, a union, workers and socialists holiday and reflects Joseph’s status as what many Catholics and other Christians consider the “patron of workers” and “model of workers.” Catholic and other Christian teachings and stories about or relating to Joseph and the Holy Family frequently stress his patience, persistence, and hard work as admirable qualities which believers should adopt.

This year, it was a hugely important date celebrated across the world as the beatification of Blessed John Paul II, the pope who faced down the evils of communism and its oppression of human beings.

Somehwere late in the re-air of those beatification ceremonies US time, the news broke of the death of the top terrorist leader, Osama bin Laden. The timing was absoutely jarring.

I switched from Pope Benedict to CNN just in time to catch President Obama deliver this address. And among other statements, this caught my attention:

So his demise should be welcomed by all who believe in peace and human dignity.

This day will go down in history. I’m eager to hear Pope Benedict’s response.