Until late Sunday evening on May 1, 2011, the big news in discussions focused on President Barack Obama throughout the weekend was that he and First Lady Michelle Obama were scheduled to appear on the Oprah Winfrey show on May 2. Then TV journalists interrupted regular television broadcasts at approximately 10:45 p.m. with the news that al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden had been killed and President Obama himself came on the air about an hour later to confirm the news and provide details on the end of a quest for justice that has taken nearly a full decade to achieve since September 11, 2001.
Delivering an address that evoked the unhealed “gaping hole” left in the heart of Americans following 9/11 along with the heightened sense of patriotic unity that followed, Obama made his purpose for being on television at such an odd hour clear from the beginning:
“Tonight I can report to the American people and to the world that the United States has conducted an operation that killed Osama Bin Laden, the leader of al Qaeda , and a terrorist who was responsible for the murder of thousands of innocent men, women, and children.”
Those words in and of themselves spoke volumes for all that they mean and imply about the bitter languishing nightmare with which Americans have lived since 9/11. Yet they also served as an important prelude to other statements made by Obama. The president properly gave credit for the success of the operation to work done by the intelligence community, to the Pakistani government’s cooperation, and to the “small team of Americans” who managed to accomplish it without losing any of their own. Yet it is also clear that the victory came as a direct result of President Obama’s leadership. Although he is not likely to make such a blunt assertion on his own, he could not avoid stating these simple and now historic facts:
“I met repeatedly with my National Security team as we developed more information about the possibility that we had located Bin Laden hiding within a compound deep inside Pakistan. And finally, last week, I determined that we had enough intelligence to take action and authorized an operation to get Osama Bin Laden and bring him to justice. Today, at my direction, the United States launched a targeted operation against that compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan… After a firefight, they killed Osama bin Laden and took custody of his body… The death of Bin Laden marks the most significant achievement to date in our nation’s effort to defeat al Qaeda.”
Mainstream media thus far seems to prefer to tip around Obama’s very active role as leader in this operation. It instead has proclaimed this a great day for the American people–which it unquestionably is– and a great victory for American intelligence operatives–which it also unquestionably is. It has also been careful to acknowledge that former President George W. Bush was just as eager to capture Bin Laden as current President Obama.
But this day is also a great one for a man whose leadership skills have been severely and repeatedly criticized and mocked within the media, a man who has endured outlandish public accusations questioning his citizenship, and one who has seen fellow government servants distribute images of himself and his family lineage as primates. All of this has come despite such triumphs as national health care reform, the appointment of an historic number of women to the U.S. Supreme Court, the repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” securing billions of dollars for victims of the BP oil spill, and other undeniable milestones.
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