“We don’t need to spike the football.”
– Barack Obama in May 2011, on the death of Osama bin Laden
Of course you don’t need to spike the ball. Not when you can spike the ball and do a touchdown dance a year later.
Once again saying one thing and doing another, President Obama used a surprise trip to Afghanistan this week to – again – trumpet the killing of Osama bin Laden by Navy Seals a year ago and bask in their glory.
One gets the sense that this was, indeed, spiking the ball – and using U.S. soldiers in harm’s way as props to do it. It’s clear that the killing of bin Laden has become a political football for Mr. Obama, as his campaign just released a political ad wondering whether his Republican presidential rival would have done the same thing.
Obviously, someone in the Obama campaign – that is to say, White House – thought it would be great theater to make a dramatic visit to Afghanistan around the one-year bin Laden anniversary – not necessarily to raise the morale of the troops or to console or comfort them, but to get political mileage out of it.
An Associated Press writer even wrote on Twitter that Obama was “speaking to voters at home.”
Bare, naked politics. In a war zone.
How utterly disgusting and reprehensible.
“The killing of Osama bin Laden,” wrote the Associated Press’ Ben Feller, even before the Afghanistan trip, “first presented as a moment of national unity by President Barack Obama, has become something else: a political weapon.”
“Shame on Barack Obama for diminishing the memory of Sept. 11 and the killing of Osama bin Laden by turning it into a cheap political attack ad,” Sen. John McCain said in a written statement. “This is the same president who said, after Bin Laden was dead, that we shouldn’t ‘spike the ball’ after the touchdown. And now Barack Obama is not only trying to score political points by invoking Osama bin Laden, he is doing a shameless end-zone dance to help himself get re-elected.”
Even as political theater goes, Mr. Obama’s moment was short-lived and tainted: Less than two hours after his visit, the Taliban attacked a foreign housing complex with a suicide car bomb, killing over half a dozen, including children.
This, after the president said his administration is negotiating with the Taliban, and urged the terrorists to “break with al-Qaida, renounce violence and abide by Afghan laws.”
Really? Doesn’t that sound just a tad bit naïve, particularly considering what happened just after his departure? What can you possibly agree to with people who are willing to blow up innocent men, women and children?
So, ultimately, the policy is silly and the politics despicable.
And how smart is it militarily, for your commander in chief to visit the battleground and project weakness? The president admitted, before the world, that the U.S. goal is not to “eradicate every vestige of the Taliban.” This is a region of the world, remember, that smells weakness miles away, and mistakes many other odors for the same.
If the strategy is to drive a wedge between the Taliban and al-Qaida, good luck. It’s a most dubious approach. Even if there were great sympathy toward the U.S. in the Taliban, most Afghans figure we’ll be gone someday regardless. Even good allegiances can break down at the point of a knife.
Of course, nothing is more important to this White House than the politics of a particular move. This president has redefined the presidency. The office is no longer primarily about governing or leading; it is now about campaigning and fundraising.