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Now that news of Osama bin Laden‘s death has circled the globe, we’ve all had time to reflect on what it means – and what it means politically.
In his first Presidential campaign, Barack Obama declared, “We will kill bin Laden,” but the terrorist leader’s name had come up less and less over time. Critics noted the change in rhetoric and decried the Obama administration as not devoting enough efforts to the war on terrorism.
On Sunday night, however, President Obama silenced his critics – by not addressing them at all. He used his address in the East Room of the White House to memorialize the victims of September 11 and call for national unity.
That isn’t to say that Pres. Obama did not tout his tactical victory: he declared bin Laden’s death as the most significant moment of the war on terror that was started by his predecessor, President George W. Bush. It was hard not to view bin Laden’s death as a victory for Obama and a defeat for Pres. Bush, whom bin Laden eluded for eight years.
Nonetheless, each President paid tribute to the work the other had done in ending bin Laden’s leadership of al Qaeda. After Pres. Obama called Pres. Bush on Sunday to tell him bin Laden had been killed, Pres. Bush issued a statement congratulating his successor and saying, “No matter how long it takes, justice will be done.”
Other prominent Republicans adopted a similar tone. “I don’t care about the politics,” said Ari Fleischer, President Bush’s press secretary. “This is great news for our country.” Tim Pawlenty and Peter King also issued congratulations to President Obama.
Bin Laden’s death comes at a time when the Obama administration is dealing with difficult questions regarding its stance in the Middle East. Before the announcement, Pres. Obama had also been facing very low approval ratings.
In the midst of this great recession, next year’s Presidential election is still likely to turn on the economy. However, it will be increasingly difficult is for Republicans to portray Pres. Obama as an international lightweight, as they have tried to do in the past.