The killing of bin Laden and presidential approval

This may come as a surprise to you, but if you look around and listen to or read what a lot of people are saying, you will discover that a lot of Americans are not especially deep thinkers.

In 2001, right after the 9/11 terror attacks, President Bush went on television to address the nation. He was plainly a grieving man and a stricken leader, his emotions laid bare for the world to see in the wake of events so senselessly violent that most of us could not comprehend them no matter how many times the WTC towers were shown falling in film footage. Bush’s approval rating soared through the roof at that time — to an almost equally incomprehensible 90 percent or so (even a three-fourths approval rating is rare these days) — all on the basis of his performance for the cameras, because for once it wasn’t a performance. But really, how much credit should people get for being themselves? If Bush hadn’t been deeply moved by the carnage, we should have judged him a sociopath.

And so it is now with President Obama and the killing of Osama bin Laden. As a humanist, I’m glad his miltary assailants shot him dead and, in fact, that’s surely what he wanted in the end anyway. I have yet to see any poll results, but people are already treating this as a matter of grave political relevance: Obama did what Bush couldn’t — a second term awaits! And on the other side, Don’t credit Obama, he had little to do with it! Looks at the economy!

Anyone who thinks that Obama made a difficult call once his intelligence officers told him where bin Laden is hiding is an idiot. This is as much as a slam-dunk as anyone can imagine. Even the most affirmed pacifists are not shedding tears over this ugly fucker’s demise. Not killing him, or failing to capture him somehow, would have been political suicide for Obama if news that he had possessed these option had leaked. Offing him had absolutely no downside. I would go so far as to say that Obama’s camp might view this as an event likely to sway a few “Obama is a radical Muslim” types in the general tottering direction of reason, but that crew is far too entrenched in its collective lunacy to be moved by facts or anything else.

I don’t think that judging our presidents on that basis of how much they weep over the fiery deaths of thousands of innocent American civilians or whether they take out the most hated terrorist in history is much of a place to start.

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