RANCHO SANTA FE, CA., May 2, 2011 – Osama bin Laden is dead; killed by Seal Team Six in a well-executed, covert operation in Pakistan. Our hearts go out to the survivors of those who lost their lives on 9/11 … for even this action cannot bring back their loved ones. The reality is that the only thing the world can celebrate is having one less maniac who is more than willing to kill innocent men, women, and children while hiding behind the veil of his personal interpretation of religion.
President Obama deserves credit for a job well done. While the “break” in the hunt for bin Laden came in August, he took a measured approach and waited until more intelligence was available and Seal Team Six had time to prepare and practice the operation. As a result, the objective was achieved without the loss of an American life.
The President’s speech was well-crafted from a strategic perspective and delivered with appropriate decorum. He addressed the relevant issues, acknowledged the appropriate parties, and walked the delicate tightrope of international politics to mitigate any potential backlash against the United States. In his private actions, President Obama thoughtfully communicated with former President Bush as well as with senior Congressional leaders.
Because an action of this nature also raises the possibility of reprisal, we can only trust that alternative scenarios have been assessed and that preventative measures are already being deployed. As the President pointed out on multiple occasions in his speech, the “war” isn’t over.
This brings us to today’s talking point: who on the Right will use this issue to demean President Obama in some way … and who on the Left will use it to demean the Right? Our country has many problems. This is an opportunity to determine whether you contribute to them.
For the most part, the media has treated the subject fairly. With the exception of the networks’ apparent need to bring in “experts” to embellish the facts with nothing more than personal conjecture, coverage has been fairly balanced. Political officials on both sides of the aisle have been quick to praise the operation and the President’s role in it.
Yet, if you read the comment sections of many public forums, you get an entirely different perspective. “Fringe” Conservatives deride the fact that the President took any credit for the operation. They want him to acknowledge that President Bush laid the groundwork for the demise of Osama bin Laden. The fact is that the critical intelligence didn’t surface until August of 2010; nearly two years after President Bush left office. So, it is quite a stretch to suggest that President Bush should receive any credit for the operation. He didn’t have the information; he didn’t participate in the briefings; and he didn’t make the final decision.
Correspondingly, “fringe” Liberals deride President Bush’s “failure” to capture or kill Osama bin Laden and think that President Obama should be acknowledged as a political genius for having achieved that goal. The reality is that the information didn’t exist until August of 2010 and neither President personally developed the intelligence. That’s not what Presidents do.
Would President Bush have acted upon the information in a similar manner? We’ll never know, just as we will never know if President Obama would have been as effective as President Bush was in the latter’s strong response to the tragedy of 9/11. The proper measure of a President is the leadership they demonstrate at any given moment in time with the information that is available.
For those on the Right who “fear” that this will help President Obama in his reelection campaign, let it go! Would you rather have Osama bin Laden escape just so your roulette wheel of Presidential candidates could have a better chance at unseating the President? That’s about as “patriotic” as hoping that our Nation will sustain terrorist attacks in response to the killing of bin Laden just so that you can use it as an argument against President Obama’s reelection.
For those on the Left who have hastily resurrected President Bush’s quote (completely out of context), “I don’t know where bin Laden is. I have no idea and really don’t care. It’s not that important. It’s not our priority,” you may wish to temper your enthusiasm. He also said, “The most important thing is for us to find Osama bin Laden. It is our number one priority and we will not rest until we find him.”
You see, Presidential quotes are often contradictory … particularly when their quotes are taken out of context. For example, President Obama “declared an end (to) the war on terror” on January 21, 2009, when he issued an Executive Order to close Guantanamo. Yet last evening, he referenced that specific “war” four times in his speech.
If you need more examples, President Obama previously stated that the United States shall not “continue with a false choice between our safety and our ideals” and that we shall “restore the standards of due process and the core constitutional values that have made this country great even in the midst of war, even in dealing with terrorism.” Based on the information that is available, the President issued a “kill” order that directed Seal Team Six to kill Osama bin Laden rather than capture him. Does anyone see the incongruity between words and actions?
Of course, I just can’t wait for the “birthers” to jump on the potential “burial-a-sea” issue. How long will it be before we hear: “How can we know that Osama bin Laden was really killed? They buried him at sea so that no one could ever confirm it was him. It’s just another conspiracy to get President Obama reelected.” Please … I beg you … don’t go there.
There are three primary political “movements” afoot in the United States. The Conservative movement wants to preserve the status quo or at least slow the pace of change to ensure that proper due diligence is done. The Progressive movement wants to evolve society more rapidly with the hope that such change would be beneficial. True Conservatives and Progressives both want to improve the country. They only differ with respect to time and tack.
It is the third movement that is of more concern. It is a new movement comprised of those who gravitate toward the outer orbits of the two more mainstream movements. I call it the Destructive Movement. Its members embrace emotional arguments that singularly support their positions (be they far Left or far Right). They never let facts get in the way. The political landscape is simply “black and white” from their perspective … and for some of them … that can be taken literally.
Charlie Sheen might be their candidate of choice because the Destructives only care about “winning.” They really don’t distinguish between “right” and “wrong because they are blinded by their beliefs. One polar extreme of the Destructives wanted President Bush to fail because they hated him; the other polar extreme seeks the same fate for President Obama … for the same reason. Going overboard isn’t a good thing … just ask Osama bin Laden.
As Rodney King once said, “Can’t we all just get along?” The killing of Osama bin Laden raises legitimate emotions and concerns (e.g., a reminder of 9/11 … and the question of how he possibly could have been “hiding” 35 miles outside of the capital of Pakistan, etc.). For many, it also raises illegitimate emotions and concerns.
This is an outstanding opportunity to look in a mirror at your motivation. Are you inclined to use this event to disparage President Obama or Progressives? Are you inclined to use it to disparage President Bush or Conservatives? To paraphrase Jeff Foxworthy, “You might be a Destructive if …”
T.J. O’Hara is an internationally recognized author, speaker, and strategic consultant in the private and public sectors. In 2012, he emerged as the leading independent candidate for the Office of President of the United States and the first nominee of the Whig Party in over 150 years.
This article first appeared in T.J. O’Hara’s recurring column, The Common Sense Czar, in the Communities Section of The Washington Times.