It was an historic week in the news as President Obama vanquished the world’s leading terrorist and perhaps his 2012 Republican opponents in one fell swoop. On Saturday night, the President had his audience at the White House Correspondents Dinner rolling in the aisles as he declared the end of the “birther” controversy and then invited his chief antagonist – “The Donald” – Trump (sitting in the audience doing a slow burn) to use his time now to chase down another burning controversy such as whether or not we really landed on the moon in 1969.
Just 24 hours later, Obama told the world in a live broadcast that an elite force of US soldiers had killed Osama bin Laden and ceremoniously dumped him at sea. And later in the week, after deciding not to release gruesome photos of the serial killer, Obama was at Ground Zero marking the end of bin Laden with an appropriately somber and sober ceremony.
Obama may never see another week like that again. A CBS/New York Times poll showed an 11-point bump upward for the President who had been idling at a 46 percent approval rating before the bin Laden killing. If the economic indicators climb as rapidly as Obama’s poll numbers – or at least find their way north before January 2012 – it will be hard for any Republican to beat him in November.
The bin Laden killing was not without controversy, however, as the White House first reported that the assault team met resistance and was in the midst of a firefight, suggesting that bin Laden himself had been armed and came up firing. The following day, White House officials acknowledged that bin Laden was not armed, was not apparently resisting capture when he was shot in the head. What began as a story about armed resistance quickly turned into an assassination. The rationale for not taking him alive, of course, was that he would become even more dangerous as a live captive than he is now as a dead murderer.
News of the bin Laden killing also triggered spontaneous celebrations here in Boston, at Ground Zero in New York and outside the White House. If you had the sound down on your television watching the coverage, you might have thought that these mostly young adults were celebrating a US World Cup victory, and the debate that continued throughout the week was the appropriateness of celebrating someone else’s death – even someone so thoroughly despised as Osama bin Laden.
I had a similar reaction to the celebrations. On Monday morning I called my daughter at Tufts University and asked her reaction to the death of Osama and the ensuing celebrations. “Honestly, I thought they were disturbing to watch,” she said. “I know what he did and I am not unhappy that he is dead, but celebrating someone’s death like that is not what I think we should be about.” I asked my oldest son, now in graduate school, and he was not as disturbed by the celebrations as his sister. “I’m never going to be that person who shows up at a rally like that,” he said, “but I’m glad he’s dead.”
Pittsburgh Steelers running back Rashard Mendehall felt strongly enough about the celebrations that he Tweeted his dismay about Americans celebrating the violent death of another human being. That might have been the end of what then blew into a major controversy except Mendehall then tweeted: “I’m not convinced he was even behind the attacks we have really seen no evidence to prove it other than the gov telling us”(apparently overlooking the fact that bin Laden’s terrorism machine Al Qaeda took credit for the 9-11 attacks).
Mendenhall tried to explain his way through the controversy, invoking God, but it all fell on deaf ears. The text:
“I believe in God. I believe we’re ALL his children. And I believe HE is the ONE and ONLY judge.”
“Those who judge others, will also be judged themselves.”
“For those of you who said you want to see Bin Laden burn in hell and piss on his ashes, I ask how would God feel about your heart?”
“There is not an ignorant bone in my body. I just encourage you to #think.”
But the First Amendment guarantee of Freedom of Speech apparently doesn’t cover NFL endorsement contracts because Champion sportswear quickly ended their new four-year contract with Mendehall after saying they “strongly disagreed”with his point of view.
If anyone was wondering what Sarah Palin might have to say about all of this, you weren’t disappointed as she finally jumped in and told a partisan crowd that “our President” deserves the credit for taking down bin Laden. Palin congratulating Barack Obama? No, she was referring to former President George W. Bush who she said put the pieces in place to take bin Laden down.
Maybe that whole lunar landing in 1969 was a hoax!