The bin Laden bounce

OK, America. That means you, too, pundits. One dead terrorist figurehead does not a presidency make.

I just heard a talking head on CNN shout, Is there anybody who can beat President Obama now?

Follow the bouncing bin Laden!

Wait, wait wait. Just last week I started hearing Republicans crow that Obama was a guaranteed one-term president. Then yesterday, with the news of Osama bin Laden having a very bad day still fresh in our minds, Obama is suddenly invincible? Really? Is the bin Laden bounce that potent?

OK, let’s give Obama a little credit. He made a couple of tough decisions. One, he was against bombing the compound. He wanted enough of bin Laden left to have solid proof that it was indeed bin Laden they had killed. Two, it was a mission to get him dead or alive, and acknowledged from the beginning that dead was the more likely outcome. He made those calls. I think they were the right calls.

The decision to bury bin Laden at sea is a littler fuzzier. I can accept the rationale that they didn’t want a land burial site to become a shrine to that soulless killer. It also makes it easier for the inevitable conspiracy theorists to spin their ludicrous inanities.

And let’s give a lot of credit to the intelligence community and that kick-ass SEAL Team 6. They did their jobs remarkably well under extraordinary circumstances. They found the needle in the giant haystack and shot it in the eye. Now there’s some kerfuffle – isn’t that a fun word? kerfuffle, kerfuffle, kerfuffle – ahem, where was I?  Oh, yes, there’s some kerfuffle that bin Laden wasn’t actually armed at the time and that the woman wasn’t actually being used as a human shield.

But let’s just remember one little thing: Osama bin Laden is directly responsible for the death of 3,000 Americans on Sept. 11, 2001, hundreds of lives in Africa in the 1998 embassy bombings and for the death of 17 Americans on the USS Cole in 2000. For the crimes of 9/11 alone, I think shoot to kill on sight is the appropriate response. I could be wrong, but I don’t think so.

And while we’re at it, let’s give W his due. The Bush administration screwed up a lot, even to the point that Bush, evidently bored with bin Laden, dismissively said he didn’t give much thought to bin Laden. But he launched the hunt. Luckily, our military and intelligence communities were eventually able to overcome some pretty tough handicaps. (Let’s not forget that the Bush administration deliberately outed a CIA operative, Valerie Plame, in not-too distant Iran. There’s no telling how deeply that damaged the CIA and the intelligence community at large.)

Bin Laden has been on the run since 1998. Clinton tried to get him. Launched a couple of Tomahawk missiles. Missed. The troops had a shot at trapping him in Tora Bora in the mountains of Afghanistan in late 2001, but the Bush administration failed to commit ground troops to smoke him out. It would have been an extremely dangerous mission, to be sure, but it was our best shot at getting him before he slipped into Pakistan to hide among our “friends.”

Then he became the needle in the big, mountainous haystack.

It took nine years to find him. It took smarts, patience and a little luck. But we finally got him.

Back to Obama and the bin Laden bounce.

So Obama suddenly got his mojo back and everything’s good now. But take a look at your calendar. It’s May 2011. Election’s a year and a half away. Remember May of 2007? Remember the leading Republican contender then? Rudy Giuliani was the name with the most cache.

Remember May of 1991? Bush 41 was basking in the glow of Desert Storm and soaring approval ratings. Then some unknown governor from Arkansas came along and – POOF! – Bush was gone.

A year and a half is a long time in politics.

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