Sunday's US military raid that resulted in the death of Osama Bin Laden was an event that Americans had every reason to celebrate. An avowed enemy of the country who made helped mastermind the deaths of thousands of our countrymen was at last dispensed with. There will be no more grainy Osama videos, no more scratchy audio tapes, no more questions or conspiracy theories about why we haven't gotten Bin Laden yet. While the battle against Al Qaeda will continue, one chapter in the war has been conclusively and satisfactorily closed. This was a clear cut victory for America.
That's why it was disquieting to see how quickly politics became a such a focal point of the story. On the left, pundits proclaimed that the 2012 election was now a foregone conclusion and rushed to heap praise on President Obama while deriding President Bush for not accomplishing what Obama had. On the right, pundits complained that President Obama took too much personal credit for the accomplishment and questioned his commitment to pursuing the fight beyond getting Bin Laden.
Politics is obviously a big part of life in America and it’s not realistic to expect that it won’t surface in some matter or form on nearly every matter of national significance at some point. But I don’t believe that it’s unreasonable to ask that people withhold from making everything all politics all the time. I’m a big believer in free speech and the US Constitution. However, if the Congress were to pass a law mandating a moratorium on political commentary following events like the killing of Bin Laden or the tragic shooting in Arizona in January, I’d support it (at least in my heart if not my head). This cooling off period wouldn’t be too long, say maybe forty-eight hours. That would give us all enough time to digest the news, consider the ramifications for the country, and behave more as Americans rather than Republicans and Democrats. After two days, we could all go back to being full time party partisans, but in the meantime we’d avoid a lot of stupid, silly, and inappropriate comments made in the immediate aftermath.
When it comes to the decision to aggressively go after Bin Laden, I agree with Brett Stephens and his view that this was Obama’s Finest Hour:
Here is something that Mr. Obama, more than most Western leaders, deeply understands: Symbolism matters. It matters that the ultimate symbol of Islamist rage did not wear a ring of invisibility. It matters that he was taken out not by a laser-guided bomb, but by American fighting men whose names we may someday know. It matters that the story of 9/11 has been brought full circle, even as the fight against terrorists carries on.
There's been a whiff of sour grapes in some of the right-wing commentary about the president's speech. Too much emphasis on the first-person pronoun, not enough credit to President Bush, and so on. It's unbecoming. If ever there was a doubt about just how American Mr. Obama is, Sunday's raid eliminates it better than any long-form birth certificate. This was his finest hour. It's for the rest of us, avenged at long last, to rejoice.
After 9/11, Americans wanted to get Bin Laden. It wasn’t a Democrat or Republican goal. It was an American goal. Now that the goal has been realized—through the tireless work of US military and intelligence personnel and the American president’s willingness to act decisively—it’s a success that we should all savor. At least for a couple of days.