Obama’s Awkward Bragging Campaign

He has used other bluffs to their fullest extent. Now the president and his team are playing his ’killed Osama bin Laden’ card for all it’s worth. Is it a gamble?

I think so. For many reasons. But first, let me just say I’m very uncomfortable with the president of the United States ‘gloating‘ over this or any other killing, even though this one took out a deadly public enemy who eluded allied forces for about a decade.

With the May 1 anniversary of Osama bin Laden’s killing upon us, the White House is going to great lengths to remind everyone all about it. For starters, there’s Joe Biden’s new stock phrase: “Bin Laden is dead, and General Motors is alive.” Then there’s the ad suggesting that Mitt Romney wouldn’t have had the guts to approve the raid. And it culminates with an interview of President Obama by NBC’s Brian Williams that airs next week from the White House Situation Room, notes Politico. That’s where the now-iconic photo was taken of top officials watching the raid.

“Few presidents have talked about the killing of an individual enemy in such an expansive way,” says the New York Times in a story today about the strategy. It could be a risky one.

It started with a weird and, I think, unpresidential ‘victory lap’ a year ago, as Saturday Night Live captured in a ripe parody. Lately, it’s been ramping up as a campaign boast, and that gets us up to speed, sort of. As much as I don’t want us to be ‘at speed’ with this one.

Senior Obama campaign adviser Robert Gibbs defended the campaign’s use of the event in a recent Web video and in a speech from Vice President Joe Biden. Meanwhile, senior Romney adviser Ed Gillespie characterized the political steps surrounding the death as a “bridge too far.”

Which is the exact term I used when Obama took the already controversial ‘individual mandate’ in his healthcare law (with government requiring citizens to purchase something) to a new level with the HHS mandate (with government requiring citizens to purchase something that violates their conscience).

But I digress…

Team Obama released a video on Friday, partially narrated by former President Bill Clinton, that praised the president’s decision to order the killing of the al Qaeda chief one year from Tuesday and questioned whether Romney would have made the same choice. Biden similarly questioned the former Massachusetts governor in a campaign-style speech on Thursday.

When I first saw it, I found it hard to take seriously or even hard to believe that the president’s team thought it worthy of presidential politics. What would Mitt do? Seriously? You are campaigning on that?

Okay, back to the principled thinking here.

Gillespie, a former aide to former President George W. Bush and former chairman of the Republican National Committee, said utilizing the raid for political purposes is one of the reasons Obama has “become one of the most divisive presidents in American history.”

“He took something that was a unifying event for all Americans, and he’s managed to turn it into a divisive, partisan political attack,” Gillespie said in a separate interview on the same NBC program. “I think most Americans will see it as a sign of a desperate campaign.”

The campaign video received criticism from Republicans, including from 2008 Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain. On Friday, he called the minute-long spot “a cheap political attack ad.”

Nonetheless…

Biden teed off what will likely remain a talking point from Team Obama through the election in a Thursday address that previewed a potential 2012 slogan.

“If you are looking for a bumper sticker to sum up how President Obama has handled what we inherited, it’s pretty simple: Osama bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive,” Biden said during a speech at New York University, lines Gibbs echoed on Sunday.

The president will pick up the message with what the campaign has billed as the president’s re-election kick-off on Saturday.

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Sheila Liaugminas

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Sheila Gribben Liaugminas, of Chicago, is a member of the Voices editorial board, and was host of The Right Questions on Relevant Radio and Issues and Answers news show. She and her husband have two sons, one a seminarian and the other a college student. Follow updates on this story (and contact Sheila) at www.inforumblog.com.

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  • Bob

    And so on the anniversary of Bin Laden’s death we learn that the Obama administration is in negotiations with the Taliban.  Is this not rich in irony and very useable messaging to address Obama’s unseemly victory dance?

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