By Bob Gaydos
Osama bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive. Those are two incontrovertible facts.
Barack Obama made the crucial decisions to kill one and save the other.
Also, if one happens to be a Republican, inconvenient and uncomfortably on target for the two things Americans care about these days when voting for a president -- national security and jobs.
Protect us from terrorists and protect our jobs.
In a presidency hamstrung by two wars he did not start, a recession he did not cause and a Republican Party that struck the words "bipartisanship" from its playbook on Day One, President Obama has had only a few clear successes. He killed Osama and he saved the American auto industry.
God forbid, though -- now that the election campaign has switched focus from the GOP field of nightmares to a man-to-man between Obama and presumptive GOP candidate Mitt Romney -- that the president's supporters should be allowed to brag about his accomplishments.
Take Osama, please, as Henny Youngman might have said. In a surprisingly direct (for Democrats) attack on Romney, Obama's campaign ran web ads on the first anniversary of the event, trumpeting the daring Navy Seals raid in Pakistan that killed the al-Qaeda leader and asked, "Would Mitt Romney have made that decision?"
Good question. In fact, one Newt Gingrich might well have asked of the man he described as an indecisive liar. But the Republican whiners came out in force immediately. How dare the president exploit the killing of bin Laden for political purposes? How could he take a unifying event like that and make it a divisive one? Whaa! Whaa! Whaa!
Do you hear yourselves? Who precisely is he dividing? I still don't know a single American who is angry that bin Laden is dead and most of them are grateful that Obama gave the order to go get him.
Which, of course, is more than George W. Bush ever did. I know, we're not supposed to talk about any of that stuff, either, right? About forgetting about capturing the 9/11 mastermind in the mountains of Afghanistan and deciding to level Iraq instead.
And, of course, we're supposed to forget about that W. landing, in a Navy jet and wearing full flight gear, on an aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf to declare "Mission Accomplished" in Iraq when the war there had barely begun. And let's not bring up the Bush team's attacks in the 2004 campaign on Sen. John Kerry's courage and patriotism while serving in Vietnam while W. was avoiding National Guard training in Texas. Wouldn't be fair to recall that, right?
Aw heck, if W. had nabbed bin Laden, he would have just moved on to getting the next tyrant and we would never have heard of it again, right? He wouldn't have it any other way.
Utter fantasy. Then again, this reaction is pretty much par for the course for the GOP these days. It has no grounding in reality most of the time and the facts are whatever its spokespersons say they are. The more troubling reaction to the Obama ads came from some liberal/Democratic supporters who felt Obama should not be politicizing the killing of bin Laden. That it was somehow unseemly for the president to do so.
We are talking politics here aren't we? Since when has it been a genteel sport? Did anyone pay attention to the GOP primaries? Talk about political blood sport. Republicans, conservatives, tea partiers (once upon a time that was genteel) have shown they will say and do anything to tear down the president, including belittling his accomplishments. Don't ask, don't tell? Don't remind them.
The point is, Obama made a carefully calculated decision to take out the head of the most notorious terrorist group on the planet by using feet-on-the-ground troops rather than remote-controlled drones or "smart" bombs. He did it over the objections of some of his top advisers, including the vice president, secretary of state and secretary of defense. And he did it knowing full well that, if the mission failed -- as did President Carter's effort to rescue the hostages in Iran -- he, as commander-in-chief, would get full blame for it. And we would be seeing those ads today, paid for by Romney supporters.
So yes, it seems a fair question to wonder whether the ever-changing Romney as commander-in-chief might have made the same decisions.
Of course, the raid succeeded and al-Qaeda is a badly crippled shell of itself. To mark the anniversary, the president flew in secret to Afghanistan to thank the troops and to sign an agreement with the new government there -- the one that replaced the al-Qaeda-friendly Taliban -- pledging the support of the United States even when U.S. forces leave Afghanistan.
Yes, the war there will come to an end soon, just as the one in Iraq did. On Obama's watch.
The man has a right to brag.
Bob Gaydos is a veteran of 40-plus years in daily newspapers. He began as police reporter with The (Binghamton, N.Y.) Sun-Bulletin, eventually covering government and politics as well as serving as city editor, features editor, sports editor and (more...)