The death of Osama bin Laden, & an Obama appreciation

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Washington Post headline on bin Laden's deathI’m not sure how I feel about the death of Osama bin Laden. I’m very glad he can no longer bring harm, but I’m pensive & mournful about the harm his followers & sympathizers, as well as his detractors & enemies, have already caused & will continue to cause.

I came in to work this morning, turned on NPR, & the first words I heard were about really bad things happening in New York & Washington, DC. My first thought was, “They’re retaliating already?!!!” until I realized, no, NPR is replaying some of its broadcast from 9/11. The words I heard were, in fact, probably the very same words I heard on that Tuesday morning in 2001 that gave me my first news of that event. I was going to say that “dreadful” event, but no adjective encompasses what happened that day, & what it did & is still doing to us. I mean “us” in the big sense: not just Americans (& of course the people who died that day were of many nationalities), but all the world.

So much death & stupidity has proceeded from that one day, catalyzed by that one man, who was so tremendously successful at unleashing the murderousness & hatred of so many. Too bad there are so people equally closed & fanatic in their chosen cause, equally intent on killing, equally locked into destructive & murderous cycles of retaliaton & counter-retaliation. It would be nice if all the killing & stupidity would end with the death of this one man. But it won’t.

Pres. Obama’s announcement of Osama bin Laden’s death (via Slate):

The night before last, Saturday night, I spent some time watching video of that night’s remarks by President Obama remarks — one might say, his comedy stylings — as well as those of Seth Myers at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner in Washington. I thought Pres. Obama was the funnier of the two — and he was devastating in his takedown of Donald Trump & birtherism. If you haven’t seen it, you really should. Here it is, via CSpan:

The only false note for me was the use of “The Lion King” as Obama’s birth video…but that’s only because it seemed to me a direct ripoff of The Daily Show’s use of “The Lion King” on August 28, 2008 during the Democratic convention in 2008, though in that case not for “birther” reasons.

The most memorable comment about Trump:

But all kidding aside, obviously, we all know about your credentials and breadth of experience. [laughter] For example — no, seriously, just recently, in an episode of Celebrity Apprentice — [laughter] — at the steakhouse, the men’s cooking team cooking did not impress the judges from Omaha Steaks. And there was a lot of blame to go around. But you, Mr. Trump, recognized that the real problem was a lack of leadership. And so ultimately, you didn’t blame Lil’ Jon or Meatloaf. [Laughter.] You fired Gary Busey. [Laughter.] And these are the kind of decisions that would keep me up at night. [Laughter and applause.] Well handled, sir. [Laughter.] Well handled.

What’s really striking now, in hindsight, is that Obama made these comments even as the operation to capture or kill bin Laden was already underway, following the President’s go-ahead last Friday morning. Andrew Sullivan last night:

And the steadiness under pressure, well, let’s just say: The cat is cool. The poker face of the man has for the last few weeks been pretty damn impressive. Just because he’s calm doesn’t mean he isn’t lethal. And imagine what must have been going through his mind as he was getting closer and closer to this just as Donald Trump was doing performance art with a birth certificate.

I don’t like Pres. Obama on everything. I’ve been disappointed by a lot. But, y’know, mostly I think the stuff I’m disappointed about is because being President of the U.S. is, yes, a powerful office for any man (or, one day, woman) to hold, but it’s also an office that owns whoever holds it as much or even more than s/he owns it. The office of POTUS is one nexus, if a very powerful one, in a large & complex system, & there’s only so much that one person can do in that position even wielding such power.

So there’s much Obama has been unable to do. There’s been much he’s wanted to change that obstacles in the system have prevented him from changing. There’s realities he’s had to accept that I’m sure he wishes he didn’t have to. (As was interestingly acknowledged in his response to some of Seth Myers’ comments at the press dinner the other night.) And yet, how much he’s accomplished in spite of those obstacles. If one must have a president, he’s a damn good one. I’m so glad it’s him in this office, rather than one of these walking jokes that even the most “viable” of the Republican candidates — not to mention the last election’s losers — are proving to be.

Well handled, sir. Well handled.

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