Friday Talking Points [166] -- Osama Bin Laden Is Still Dead

Friday Talking Points [166] -- Osama Bin Laden Is Still Dead
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Mission freakin' accomplished.

I don't care how ironic that sounds to some, it's true. Osama Bin Laden declared war on America, waged that war for years (and killed Americans in doing so), then hid for many more years, and was finally hunted down and killed like an animal. Mission accomplished.

I wouldn't care, at this point, if the White House dusted off the old Bush banner and hung it out on the front of the building. Because the mission of killing our number one enemy was successfully accomplished last week, which pushed almost all other news aside. Some days in the news business you find a "single-story day." This was a single-story week. It was that important.

America, to be blunt, doesn't have these moments very often. In actual fact, we've had more severe disappointments on this level than achievements. Jimmy Carter was just as bold and daring as Barack Obama in greenlighting a helicopter raid, but the raid crashed and burned in the deserts of Iran instead of accomplishing the mission. Had this mission been a success, the 1980 election would have been a whole different story.

Ronald Reagan had his days of disaster as well. The bombing of a barracks in Beirut was probably the biggest of these failures, although taking a cruise missile potshot at Ghaddafi was also a mission failure as well. George H.W. Bush had a military victory in Kuwait, but refused to pursue Saddam Hussein to Baghdad (rightly or wrongly), setting up a stalemate that went on until his son was in the Oval Office. Bill Clinton fired a few cruise missiles off that didn't hit paydirt, either. And George W. Bush had 9/11.

In short, moments of spectacular victory such as this aren't as common as moments of spectacular defeat seem to have been. George W. Bush did catch Saddam Hussein, but by the time he did the public had so soured on the Iraq war itself that it was a tainted victory at best.

Back to the present, what struck me about the past week was how America almost seemed to be searching for the proper way to celebrate this victory. And how petty the complaints were from the political ankle-biters. Which is why, this week, rather than contribute to partisan mudslinging (which we normally enjoy the heck out of, to be honest), I have written a rant instead of the weekly talking points. The subject of this rant is: "Can't we all just breathe a collective sigh of relief in unison here, rather than being back at each other's throats right away?" Or, more pointedly, perhaps: "We got him, and I simply don't care about the rest of it."

So we'll just very briefly get the awards out of the way here, and then we'll move directly on to the rant.

President Barack Hussein Obama is truly the only choice for Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week. This week might just qualify him for Most Impressive Democrat Of The Last Fifty Years, in fact.

Successfully killing the avowed enemy of America, Osama Bin Laden, is a historic event. How much luck had to do with this is immaterial at this point. Obama chose the gutsiest military option, and it almost didn't work. I'm sure visions of Carter were dancing in everyone's heads when they heard one of the helicopters had gone down. But it all turned out OK in the end. Not unlike the Canadian Mounties, we got our man.

The political smear of Obama being "weak" isn't going to be tossed around much anymore. Neither is the smear that he can't make up his mind what to do. He chose the hardest route, and it worked. Bin Laden is dead. End of story.

For this, Obama deserves a nation's praise. He also deserves the heck out of his record-setting twenty-fifth Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week. Well done, Mister President, well done.

[Congratulate President Barack Obama on the White House contact page, to let him know you appreciate his efforts.]

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid may have just missed a window of opportunity. He was boldly stating, a few weeks ago, that he was going to bring up the Ryan budget which had passed the House (and which kills Medicare as we know it) for a vote in the Senate, when it resumed work. The past week was his best chance of doing so. He did not. I don't know if Harry just backed down, or whether he bargained it away behind the scenes, but it was a mistake not to hold this vote.

Putting every Republican senator on the record as voting to replace Medicare with vouchers would have helped Democratic Senate candidates enormously next year. This is why the Republicans senators are so terrified of voting on the Ryan budget in the first place. They fear the Tea Party on one side, and the seniors on the other. As they rightly should.

Reid could have forced the issue this week -- nobody was paying the slightest bit of attention to the Senate, so it would have been perfect timing. Shove the vote through, and the Democratic campaign ads next year would have just written themselves.

By the end of the week, Republicans had already cracked under the pressure, and are now admitting that they're tossing the "kill Medicare" Ryan idea under the bus. This is because the idea is not popular at all with the voters out there, as Republicans just found out in two weeks of town hall meetings back home.

Reid threatened to throw his weight around, and force the vote. Then he didn't do so, in the best week he had to make it happen (to be fair, we will consider rescinding this award, if Harry does force a vote soon). For showing such weakness, and for issuing such an empty threat, Harry Reid is this week's Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week.

Don't you want to help Democrats win Senate elections next year, Harry?

[Contact Senator Harry Reid on his Senate contact page, to let him know what you think of his actions.]

Volume 166 (5/6/11)

It seems that, ever since President Barack Obama announced the good news last Sunday night that Osama Bin Laden was dead, the Monday-morning quarterbacking began. After a very brief moment of unity, the pundits and the politicians asked themselves the question they always asks themselves, whenever virtually anything of any importance happens: "How does this fit into politics-as-usual?"

But you know what? This is precisely what the rest of the country hates about both politicians and the media. The knee-jerk reaction to see "who's up and who's down?" in the political word is the core reason most Americans (outside BeltwayLand, of course) get so frustrated with Washington. In fact, this is the perfect week to put this thought into words: "Want to cover a horserace? Go to Kentucky! Just let me enjoy the fact that we got Bin Laden for a minute, would you?"

I mean, seriously. Does this nation even know how to celebrate a victory anymore? Have we had so few true victories in recent times that we've actually forgotten how to handle them when they happen?

Sure, it's all schadenfreudey of me to say so (to coin a phrase). You know what? I don't care. We got Bin Laden. It may be politically incorrect by some standards, but it is still a valid reason for Americans to feel good.

Osama Bin Laden was not a criminal, in the normal sense of that word. He was an enemy. He himself made this clear, by declaring war on the United States of America. He led not a country but a gang of ruthless thugs, but that doesn't mean we should treat him any differently than a state enemy. He declared himself a military target. And we took him out as a valid military target. Mission accomplished.

So can we all stop squabbling and breathe a sigh of relief together? The death of this one man has -- overnight -- changed our geopolitical position as a country. This summer, we'll be discussing withdrawing troops from Afghanistan and Iraq, and Bin Laden's death changes that discussion in profound ways, for the better. That is something to celebrate, indeed.

I have to admit I was taken aback personally as I saw the spontaneous crowd gathering Sunday night to wave signs saying things like "DING DONG BIN LADEN IS DEAD!" at the gates of the White House, and at Ground Zero in New York City. It's a bit unseemly, and I remember how incensed Americans were to see people in other parts of the world actually celebrating 9/11 when it happened. But at the same time, I realize that such outpouring of emotion is an entirely human thing to do, and that there were probably plenty of Americans who felt like giving a big "Hip Hip Hooray!" in public when they heard the news last Sunday.

In fact, I've been surprised at how lame the late-night comedians have been on the issue. Is it too soon? No! It most certainly is not! In fact, I am looking forward to watching Saturday Night Live this week, just to see if Chevy Chase puts in an appearance on "Weekend Update" to utter the line: "This just in... Osama Bin Laden is still dead."

Is this belligerent of me? I don't really care. In fact, "I don't really care" has become somewhat of a mantra for me, as I watch the media fill endless hours dissecting this or that particular aspect of killing Bin Laden. I really don't care about a lot of it, even though (as a blogger) I am supposed to get downright indignant over this or that particular detail. Because what really makes me indignant is that we're even discussing this or that detail. My feelings on the death of Bin Laden can best be summed up as that mythical quote from a Wild West gunslinger: "He's dead, and I'm not, and that's the way I wanted it." Everything else, at this point, seems like small potatoes to me. Bin Laden's dead. He's still dead, in fact (come on, Chevy, you just know you want to say it this week...). Everything else is picking nits, really -- or naked partisanship, which is even more disgusting.

Was the raid "legal" or "extrajudicial execution"? I don't care. Bin Laden's dead. The Navy SEALs aren't. Mission accomplished.

Is the public going to get to see gory photos of Bin Laden's body? I don't care. I know he's dead. Even Al Qaeda itself has now admitted he's dead, so what exactly would be the point, other than to feel American's almost-endless appetite for gore?

Anyone who doubts this appetite exists, please see for proof: Bones, CSI, NCIS, or any of the other alphabet-soup prime-time shows where rotting corpses are now the star attraction. We've entered into a whole new level of the world described by the "Gang of Four" musical group back in the 1980s, in "5.45" -- their song about the gore on the evening news:

Down on the street assassinate

All of them look so desperate

Declared blood war on the bourgeois state

Watch new blood on the 18-inch screen

The corpse is a new personality

As they scream repeatedly at the end, "Guerilla war struggle is a new entertainment!" Indeed.

But slaking this bloodthirst is not in the nation's best interests, President Obama has decided. And you know what? That's OK with me. I'm no better than anyone else -- I surely would have examined closeups of the photos, were they to be released, along with many Americans. But I take the president at his word when he says that the release of the photos would put American soldiers at heightened risk. Good enough for me -- their safety is much more important than my curiosity.

The White House, as in all such situations, didn't have the full and complete story (what reporters call the "tick tock") on the raid in the first days after it happened. Debriefing was, obviously, not complete, and details were provided which were later recanted. I don't really care, one way or another. Was Bin Laden killed? Yes, he was. Were any Americans killed? Nope. Was their collateral damage? I don't care. Anyone living with the number one target of the United States is taking their lives in their own hands by doing so. Which is why I don't care exactly what went down in the raid -- only in the results.

Was Bin Laden's body treated with proper respect and buried according to Muslim tradition? I don't care. I really don't. He had no compunctions about treating fellow Muslims to death, and were the position reversed is there anyone alive who thinks Bin Laden would bury an American soldier with a Christian burial? I mean, it's nice that America shows we're "better than that," but would I have cared if they had just tied a rock to his body and kicked it overboard? No, I would not have. I will say that Obama's decision to bury him at sea was a brilliant one, though, since it provides no shrine for his misguided followers.

This all may sound shocking to some. But in my opinion, we've had too much cerebral thoughts and dissection of what happened. When most Americans feel like celebrating, instead. So I'm feeding my Jingoistic id this week, as I mostly ignore the petty squabbling coming from other quarters (both right and left). Osama Bin Laden's dead. The rest is merely details.

I have to say, this may be a barbaric stance for me to take, but, once again, I don't care. Because the people who are carping and complaining about this or that detail just look small to me right now. This is a big deal. This is the type of thing that people will remember years from now: "Where were you when you heard...?" All the partisan horse manure will not be remembered at all, that's my guess anyways.

Do you want to give every tiny shred of credit to Barack Obama for this accomplishment? Feel free. Do you want to give the lion's share of credit to George W. Bush? Go right ahead, doesn't bother me. Do you want to crow about the vindication of torture? Be my guest. Do you want to decry the use of torture once again? Hey, I'm with you. I simply don't care, at this point.

There will be plenty of time for all that later. There's plenty of time now, for those interested, as these (and many other) debates rage online and over the airwaves. But you know what? I don't care. This weekend I will pop open a beer and raise a toast to the fact that Bin Laden is feeding the fishes in an unidentified part of the ocean. I'll toast Navy SEAL Team Six (even though they're not supposed to exist, officially) -- the same team reported to have killed the pirates at the beginning of Obama's term, by the way. I'll toast Barack Obama, Leon Panetta, and Robert Gates. I'll even, for the first time in my lifetime, toast the Central Intelligence Agency. I'll toast whomever you please, as long as the refrain is: "This just in... Osama Bin Laden is still dead."

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