One year ago I congratulated President Obama and everyone involved for the successful raid to take out Osama bin Laden. He made a tough call that could have meant disaster for him politically if it went wrong and he deserved credit for making the right decision. Candidate Obama is now squandering that credit by perverting what was not only an accomplishment for Obama, but all Americans, into a cheap attack on Mitt Romney.
I remember seeing the images of the charred wreckage and bodies that America left behind in Iran in the wake of the disastrous Operation Eagle Claw. That was April 1980, and even though it was not Jimmy Carter's errors that doomed that mission, he was Commander-in-Chief and had to bear the responsibility for that failure. I also remember the white-hot mix of frustration, anger, and shame at our impotence as a nation. By that time I wasn't likely to vote for Carter anyway that November, but Operation Eagle Claw sealed the deal for me and many others. It may not be entirely fair, but that goes with the territory if one wants to be President of the United States.
It's in that context, and despite a few attempts by some to spin it to the contrary at the time, that President Obama deserved his share of glory for the successful mission that killed bin Laden. That goes with the territory too and despite my frustrations days later at the clownish leaks and mixed messages from the administration, I think President Obama himself did a good job in the aftermath.
However, what candidate Obama does not seem to understand is that when President Obama sent that team into Pakistan he did so not in the name of and for Obama, but in the name of and for the United States of America. Such things are an obvious plus politically for any president and it is understandable that they would highlight them in a campaign, but they are not meant to be gathered up like weapons packs in a video game and used to pummel opponents. To do so is not only unseemly, it lays claim to ownership to an extent that no president deserves. The efforts of hundreds if not thousands of Americans also went into getting bin Laden and they did so for no individual's glory, but for America. They certainly did not do it so some politician could turn it into a cudgel against his political opponent.
The killing of bin Laden has now been thoroughly weaponized politically and it's become just one more thing that divides us as a nation. That's a damn shame, but what's done is done. I don't know if Obama did that because deep down he's clueless and classless or if it is just one more in a long string of campaign attacks meant not to clarify his position, but to demonize and divide us. Maybe it's both, since the two are not mutually exclusive. In the short term, that's the even greater shame.