It started with Obama releasing his birth certificate, reached what I thought couldn’t have been a more satisfying public humiliation o Donald Trump at the White House Correspondent’s Dinner Saturday night, and then…
How’s that candidacy working out for you now, Mr. Trump?
So let’s go through this one step at a time.
1. The birth certificate. I talked about it briefly last week, mostly to send people to Baratunde’s moving and emotional reaction to what Obama had been pushed to do. Now we know, of course, one of the “more important things” on Obama’s plate at the time. I think that this issue is now dead as a media topic – the old horse of “why won’t he just release the long form”, never mind that our own State Department accepts the document Obama had provided in 2008, simply won’t float anymore.
2. The Correspondents’ dinner. I am well aware of the dysfunction of the DC press, and the horrible spectacle that these dinners can be. (Anyone remember MC Rove?) But sometimes good can come from this, and the good that came from Saturday’s dinner is that between Seth Meyers brutal dismemberment of Donald Trump in the video above (the whole thing is great; the Trump stuff starts around 12:00 in) and President Obama’s gentler, but no less devastating takedown (his Trump material starts at 9:30 of this link), Trump is Presidential dead man walking.
There is a moment, after Meyers’ first, most devastating Trump joke (“Donald Trump has been saying he will run for President as a Republican, which is surprising because I just assumed he was running as a joke.”) when the room explodes in derisive, cathartic laughter while Trump sits there, stone faced. (Trump, the next morning, said that he was surprised that Obama addressed him at all, and dissed Meyers for his bad delivery. Of course, it was hard to tell if Meyers delivery was bad, obscured as it was by the raucus laughter drowning it out. Extra bonus? Trump was then blasted by the Stuttering Foundation for using “stutterer” as an insult.) The thing to remember is that it’s the people in that room who decide who and what are worthy of our attention. Obama, and then Meyers, reminded them of what a petty, insignificant man Donald Trump really is. If ever there was a shining example of how humor can accomplish what earnest opposition can’t, there it was.
Plus, the Donald had to sit and listen to someone he couldn’t fire slice him to ribbons.
I had some friends on Facebook who actually felt sorry for Trump, but given his unbridled race-baiting – first with the birth certificate and then with the “how did Obama get into Columbia and Harvard” crap, I actually don’t think it’s possible to go too far in burying him.
3. Osama Bin Laden killed. Talk about burying the lede.
I imagine we won’t know exactly what happened in Abbottobad for quite a while, if ever. Today there are reports that Bin Laden’s 12 year old daughter witnessed his killing, and, in other news, John Yoo is still an asshole.
This is one of the better backgrounders on the all that led up to the raid, and quite a few people have noted how risky this operation was – indeed, one of the helicopters failed on the way in, and one of the reasons the raid could continue was because of a contingency, apparently pushed by Obama himself, that had extra helicopters in play.
Now, of course, people are getting into the politics of it. Obama’s poll numbers are getting a predictable – and almost certainly temporary – bump; Andrew Sullivan predicted that “… the president who found and killed Osama bin Laden will be very hard not to re-elect,” while Republicans – particularly those who worked for George H.W. Bush, caution that approval is ephemeral, with their old boss as proof, having gone from an 89% approval at this stage of his presidency to losing to Bill Clinton less than 2 years later.
Which is true, and Obama faces the same issue Bush I faced: a faltering economy.
Bush had successfully concluded a military action that had a feel-good aura about it (kicking Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait), but no real lasting emotional resonance here at home.
Barack Obama promised in 2008 that he’d do whatever it took to “get” Bin Laden, including going into Pakistan unilaterally (for which John McCain AND Hillary Clinton criticized him sharply). Which is exactly what he ended up doing. And for all that al Qaeda lives on, Bin Laden has a real resonance for most people in this country. If you’re over 25, you have a pretty good sense that things changed after September 11, 2001; that those changes haven’t all been good or pleasant, and Bin Laden was the guy associated with that.
And now he’s dead.
My hope is that this givs Obama an excuse to get out of Afghanistan. If he gets to the summer of 2012 pretty much cleared out of Iraq and clearly on the way out of Afghanistan, and the economy has continued to recover, even at this glacial pace, I think he’s hard to beat.
Either way he’s certainly inoculated from the smear that he’s not serious about fighting terrorism, which, even in a down economy, would still be the Republican’s quickest route to making him look weak.
More important, the killing of Osama Bin Laden, and the details of how involved the process was that found him, and the deliberations on how to act on that information, are a reminder that the Presidency is serious business.
In The American President, the climactic scene involves the hero, liberal President Shepherd (Michael Douglas) stepping up to defend the woman he loves and the ideals he has pushed aside. Addressing the noxious Republican (played by Richard Dreyfuss), Shepherd says the following:
For the last couple of months, Senator Rumson has suggested that being President of this country was, to a certain extent, about character. And although I’ve not been willing to engage in his attacks on me, I have been here three years and three days, and I can tell you without hesitation: Being President of this country is entirely about character.
People talk about character in campaigns, and attack it all the time. But attacks on character work best when they fill a vacuum.
Action is character, wrote F. Scott Fitzgerald, and the reason moderately successful presidents are very hard to unseat is that they have character-revealing actions in which people can take comfort. Obama will, by 2012, have several: health reform (which will, by 2012, be a plus, not a minus, for him), at least two standoffs against Republicans where he will get to be on the side that most people find reasonable, and, of course, the killing of Osama Bin Laden. Obama hasn’t made it imposible for a Republican to beat him in 2012, but he’s neutered the weapon they most want to use in that battle.