Americans thronged the White House on Sunday night upon hearing of Osama bin Laden’s death, indicating clearly who they thought made it possible — the man reviled lately by friends and foes for not showing leadership.
After this, US President Barack Obama will not need to show more proof of leadership, neither in short form, nor in long. He has delivered to Americans their biggest tormentor, someone who changed the way they lived.
In the announcement speech on late Sunday night, Obama made clear it was his decision to go after bin Laden, setting it as new CIA chief Leon Panetta’s top priority. And that he was completely involved with the planning.
And that it was finally on “my direction” that an operation was launched.
If he looked greedily chomping off credit, he deserves some.
Obama needs some good news to cheer up his administration buffeted as it has been by one setback after another, starting with the “shellacking” at the congressional elections last November.
The resurgent Republicans have pushed hard on every issue of importance since --especially budget and health care. For going the extra mile on budget to meet Republicans halfway, he lost a few friends among Democrats.
Even his ardent friends and fans had begun turning away. Actor Matt Damon, for instance, told him he was disappointed by the President's performance. Obama joked lately he was disappointed by Damon’s Adjustment Bureau.
But he gets the message.
His popularity numbers have been in a free fall. The economy has been picking up, but the pace has been slow. Unemployment continues to be high and the housing market continues to be in the dumps.
The last remaining knocks to his image came from a perceived lack of spine in the US’s response to the continuing Arab Spring. Politicians from both parties have been disappointed by what they say is abdication of leadership on Libya.
Democrat senator John Kerry was an early caller for intervention in Libya, for instance. Republican senator John McCain made his point by landing up in Misrata, calling for US intervention.
Drumbeats have now started for Syria.
Can bin Laden’s death end Obama’s woes? Will the cheering in the streets last long enough to give him another term (he is up for re-election in 2012)?
For the present, all celebrations are likely to be put on hold at White House as the national security establishment hunkers down for a possible retaliation against al Qaeda chief's killing.
The US department of state issued a world-wide travel advisory on Sunday, asking Americans to be careful in view of a “recent counter-terrorism activity in Pakistan”.
Highlights of US President Barack Obama’s speech, announcing the death of Osama bin Laden