Tuesday, May 10, 2011


Right-wingers are snickering about this:

President George W. Bush got a bigger bounce in his Gallup job approval rating for capturing Saddam Hussein than President Barack Obama got for killing Osama in Laden.

Obama got a 6-point bounce in his Gallup job approval after he announced that U.S. Navy SEALS had raided a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan and killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. Bush got either a 7-point or a 9-point bounce--depending on the day you calculate from (Gallup used both figures)--after he announced that U.S. forces in Iraq had captured alive former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein....

But we know why that happened, don't we? The Obama administration simply didn't prepare for its confrontation with one enemy -- the GOP -- as carefully as it did for the confrontation with another enemy -- bin Laden. Obama and his team certainly prepared well for what happened in Pakistan:

President Obama insisted that the assault force hunting down Osama bin Laden last week be large enough to fight its way out of Pakistan if confronted by hostile local police officers and troops, senior administration and military officials said Monday.

... senior officials also said that two teams of specialists were on standby: One to bury Bin Laden if he was killed, and a second composed of lawyers, interrogators and translators in case he was captured alive....

But the preparations simply weren't as careful for what would happen after the raid, when Obama would confront an enemy as determined to destroy him as bin Laden was to destroy America: the Republican Party. Years of preparation and training and intelligence groundwork had preceded the raid, but no similar groundwork had been done to prepare for what followed the raid domestically.

Domestic groundwork was Team Bush's specialty. Bush's crew and the GOP noise machine had labored for years to ensure that any criticism of the "war on terror" would be deemed treasonous, and would make the critic a pariah. So when Howard Dean said the capture of Saddam wouldn't make America any safer, his words were deemed beyond the pale, and his statement was said to do him severe damage.

But Team Obama didn't spend the last two years establishing the premise that criticism of the president on foreign policy is traitorous. So what was shocking in the case of Dean was routine in this instance. Republicans attacked Obama relentlessly after the successful raid.

Team Bush knew how to get the domestic job done. Team Obama knew how to target and eliminate America's worst enemy. The latter may be what we think we want from our presidents, but the former gets you bigger bumps in the polls. And Team Bush knew which one it wanted to prioritize.

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