Sunday, just before midnight, President Barack Obama told the American people that Osama Bin Laden was dead. Thanks to an American-led mission, Bid Laden had been cornered in a compound outside of Islamabad, and after some gunfire, was killed.
Over the next days, details will emerge of the actual event. But what we can say tonight is that President Obama will receive great political accolades for his efforts. He is already being positioned as the leader that focused on the right mission rather than the wrong war.
In his statement, President Obama laid out very clearly for the American people, that this event was a direct result of his, the President's, intentions. He used the phrases often and conspicuously such as "at my direction" and "I repeatedly made clear" and "I gave the order that..."
He explained that he had told CIA Director Leon Panetta that tracking down Bin Laden would be his top priority. After many years of intelligence gathering, the President said the CIA got a "lead." In August of 2010, the President was informed: "Bin Laden was in a compound deep within Pakistan." That compound was found last Friday at which point the President gave the order to action ending the life of the greatest villain of our time.
Congratulations flood in from political and cultural leaders alike. What looks like thousands of people are gathering outside the White House -- led by White House staffers -- to cheer, sing the national anthem, and wave the American flag. Some are climbing trees. Others flash cameras. More are on their way. Facebook news feeds are jammed with congratulations and comments. Twitter accounts are flashing. We are all huddled around our televisions and laptops.
Obama told us this evening: "This marks the most significant achievement in our war against terror." It also marks what could very well be a turning point in the Obama presidency. Beleaguered by a stalled economy, stinging partisan politics, and the most challenging public policy issues of our time, Obama's approval rating has languished.
But Sunday's success will give Obama new fuel. His staff is positioning him as the man who got the job done. He's the tough leader who gave the order to Leon Panetta. He's the apt negotiator who brought Pakistan in line to help. He's the hands-on manager who had five top security briefings over the past three months in order to plan for the actual ambush.
This success and the exuberance that Americans are feeling will thrust Obama into the election season with new energy. It will also smother any complaints from the Right about this President's commitment to national security. Democrats now want you to ask the question: Who can really get the job done on issues of national defense?
Former President George W. Bush released a statement of his congratulations saying that this was a "victory for peace" and a lesson for the world that "no matter how long it takes, justice will be done."
How long it took was nearly ten years. No doubt, the Republicans will say that President Bush laid the groundwork for the capture and death of Bin Laden. However, it will largely be perceived as an empty argument. Sunday's success is because Obama gave laser focus to the mission, rather engaging in a tangential war in Iraq. He invested in deep intelligence, rather than from-the-hip militarism.
For that, in the coming weeks and months he will be aptly rewarded.
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