Meyer: Bin Laden’s death a huge boost to Obama’s 2012 campaign

Tom Meyer

In the aftermath of the stunning news that American forces had killed al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in Pakistan Sunday, people filled the streets to celebrate the news.

But if there was one man who should have been rejoicing more than anyone, it was President Barack Obama. The news that bin Laden was killed by American forces, and that they recovered his body, is the ultimate political win-win for the president.

During the 2008 election, Obama campaigned on the promises that he would refocus American military efforts on the war in Afghanistan and that “we will kill bin Laden.” Now, after his predecessor failed for seven years to do so, Obama can hang his hat on having fulfilled that massive pledge.

After years of Republicans accusing Obama and other Democrats of being soft on terror or “dithering,” Obama has the opportunity to turn the table and point to the results. Few Democrats-including Vietnam hero John Kerry in 2004-have had that chance.

Additionally, the killing of the world’s most wanted man helps Obama refocus the national attention. It seems absurd now that just days ago the biggest debate in this country was about whether Obama was even born here. He was.

At a time when Obama’s mojo seemed to be slipping away more than ever, the President had the chance to appear before the nation and take credit for an event that had Americans dancing in the streets.

This feeling of colossal accomplishment has significant intangible effects by creating an air of infallibility-if only for the moment-around a politically vulnerable individual. Perhaps the biggest indicator of this was the lavish praise heaped on Obama from all circles. Republicans, military officers, foreign leaders, Democrats and even reality-TV star Donald Trump were all quick to praise Obama for the execution of one of the military’s most successful missions.

This should not go unnoticed. For a President who has faced opposition in nearly all of his policies, universal praise restores his credibility as someone with the potential to transform politics again.

But it is the timing of the event that makes it such a political winner for Obama. May was thought to be a month during which the Republican field could take shape and the media coverage of the GOP would go into overdrive. Instead, the first week – or more – of the month is focused on Obama’s shining achievement. And the news gets even better for the President.

Just last week, Mitt Romney caused a stir by saying that the U.S. is currently in “peacetime,” even as we fight in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya. Furthermore, potential 2012 Republican candidate Rick Santorum gave a major foreign policy speech last week in which he outlined his positions on American involvement abroad; not once did he mention the decade-long war in Afghanistan.

Obama’s solemn but satisfied announcement of the news starkly contrasts Republican candidates who appeared to forget that the mission had not yet been accomplished. And, of course, there is the potential knockout blow that this news delivers to the possible candidacy of Trump.

While Trump was complaining about how victimized he felt at the White House Correspondents Dinner, Obama was secretly authorizing a breathtaking mission to take out the world’s foremost terrorist. Then, as if the contrast wasn’t already stark enough, Obama’s announcement cut into the ending of Trump’s “Celebrity Apprentice.”

In a matter of days, with the news of bin Laden’s death, a vivid picture has been created of a clumsy Republican field competing against a President who has his act together.

Obviously, this will not last forever. Bin Laden’s death will almost certainly not be the deciding factor in the 2012 election. Talk will soon return to deficits and the Republicans will certainly have a window to take back the White House. But, as The Daily Beast’s Andrew Sullivan wrote, “the president who found and killed Osama bin Laden will be very hard not to re-elect.”

And that should have Obama smiling.

Tom Meyer is a Medill freshman and DAILY blogger. He can be reached at [email protected]northwestern.edu.