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May 8, 2011

He didn't become 'The President' for all of us until Obama got Osama


Daily Star

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Some idle musings while wondering how many months _ yes, only months _ it will be before we see the first TV movie about how the Navy SEALS offed Osama bin Laden ...

Barack Obama took office as president of the United States on Jan. 20, 2009.

But he didn't become "The President" until May 1, 2011, when he announced that America had finally succeeded in tracking down and killing bin Laden.

A political campaign to undermine the legitimacy of Obama as president had been disappointingly effective. For too many of our citizens, he was "not one of us," as Sarah Palin claimed during the 2008 campaign.

Whether it was because the idea of a black president was abhorrent, or folks believed the baloney about him being born in Kenya or that he was a Muslim, Barack Obama, in their view, just wasn't a true American. He was "the other."

Then came last Sunday night, when in strong, serious tones, Obama spoke about 9/11, bin Laden and America.

"As a country," he said, "we will never tolerate our security being threatened, nor stand idly by when our people have been killed."

He wasn't "the other," or just Barack Obama, He was "The President," standing up for America.

Finally, one of "us."

There was a lot to be impressed with regarding the whole operation that took down bin Laden. For once, at least, no one could accurately say the term "military intelligence" was an oxymoron.

The fact-finding by the CIA and other agencies that tracked the evil man to his lair, the gutsy decision by Obama to send in commandos, the skill and bravery of the men who carried out the operation _ all were incredibly impressive.

But what made me sit back and say, "Wow!" was Obama's multi-tasking while up to his elbows in planning the death of the world's No. 1 terrorist.

On April 27, a Wednesday, he released his long-form birth certificate and scolded those who hadn't believed that he is a native-born American.

"We do not have time," he correctly said, "for this kind of silliness."

Then, on the following Saturday night, you wouldn't have thought he had a care in the world when he laughed heartily at jokes _ including one about bin Laden _ at the White House Correspondents Association Dinner, televised on C-SPAN.

In extremely good humor, Obama's dinner speech eviscerated any pretensions blowhard birther-in-chief Donald Trump had about becoming the next president.

Referring to choices Trump makes on his "Celebrity Apprentice" television program, the president said: "And these are the kind of decisions that would keep me up at night."

The crowd laughed, knowing all the crucial world and national decisions Obama must make on a daily _ and nightly _ basis.

Well ... not ALL the decisions.

The next day, the president of the United States was going to kill Osama bin Laden.

In the aftermath, it was fun to watch the right's reaction to what was an overwhelming success by a Democratic president.

Some _ for instance, Speaker of the House John Boehner and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani _ showed considerable class in praising Obama.

Others, including Palin and Rush Limbaugh, have not been nearly as generous.

Meanwhile, even before Sunday night, prominent Republicans such as Jeb Bush and Mike Pence have been shying away from running against Obama in 2012, despite his low poll numbers (which received a 11-point boost in Monday polling).

"Well, hmmm ... when is that election again? Nov. 6, 2012? Let me check my schedule. Oh gee, I happen to be seeing my dentist that day, and you know how long you have to wait for another appointment if you cancel. Check back with me in 2016, will you?"

Like George H.W. Bush's numbers after the Gulf War, Obama's will go down if the economy doesn't improve. But for right now, the GOP's collection of candidates for 2012 is less of a "Who's Who" and more of a "Who's That?"

The Fox News and the South Carolina Republican Party presidential debate Thursday had only former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum (who in 2006 lost his re-election campaign by 18 points), Texas Rep. Ron Paul, former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson and businessman Herman Cain.

That's pretty slim pickins, even with Mitt Romney expected to join the fray, and maybe Newt Gingrich and some others.

But the prospect of running against "The President Who Got Osama bin Laden" isn't likely to start any kind of Republican stampede into the primaries any time soon.

Sam Pollak is the editor of The Daily Star. He can be reached at spollak@thedailystar.com or at (607) 432-1000, ext. 208.