Saturday, May 7, 2011

Death Comes to the Most Evil Man on the Planet, A Blow to the Fringe, Presidential Resurgence (At Least for Now)

Code Name: Geronimo, Status: Dead
It was a long-delayed catharsis for those of us who have the awful day of September 11, 2001 etched into our memories, which is pretty much every American over the age of 10.

After 10 long years of at least two wars (three if you count Libya), countless American soldiers lost, trillions of dollars spent and stunning intrusions into our civil liberties, the man who started it all, undoubtedly the most hated and evil man on the planet, terrorist Osama Bin Laden is dead.

Bin Laden was nothing he claimed to be. He portrayed himself to be a man of the Arab people. But he was no revolutionary. Part of the reason he was located was that he was not, as many expected, hold up in some remote cave, but living a lavish life in a mansion outside of Abadabad, Pakistan.

He was no courageous warrior. By all accounts, his last minutes were filled with cowardice, not bravery.

He was no true believer, even in the distorted principles of the radical sect of Islam to which he belongs. A true believer would have welcomed the chance to enter the afterlife a martyr and join his harem of virgins. But Bin Laden resisted like a man who, rather than being a religious man, was a deceitful, cynical man, who used religion to gather the poor and the downtrodden to his evil cause.

The political punditry have already begun the debates -- who gets the credit - George W. Bush or Barack Obama? Should the photos be released? What does this mean for 2012? I will talk about all these things in the months ahead. Politics is an important part of preserving our democracy. I wouldn't spend so much of my time writing about it if I believed otherwise.

But before you read the next two sections, which rejoin the political discussion, take a moment, or an hour, or a week and savor the vast improvement that human race has undergone by no longer having Osama Bin Laden within its ranks. He was a disgrace to Islam and the Arab world, but most importantly to humanity. I am not a religious person, but today, I hope gravely that I am wrong, so that there is a hell for Osama Bin Laden to burn in.

I'm also not a believe in the death penalty, but I can't think of a better exception to the rule than the most evil man on the planet.

Good riddance, Osama. Congratulations, Navy Seals.

Conspiracy Theories That Are Dead
It's been a rough couple of weeks if you are a wing nut conspiracy theorist. If you were one of the so-called "birthers", the release of the President's original birth certificate struck a blow to your cause. In fact, a new CNN poll reveals that a mere 3% of the population believes the birther nonsense, down dramatically from earlier polls that had the numbers well into the double digits.

If you are one of the so called "truthers", those who believe that the government was complicit, or even behind, the events of September 11th, your theory took a pretty hard blow with the surgical killing of the man who really did it.

In a Democracy, there will always be wing nuts. Some wing nut theories are harmless, like the fascination with Area 51. Some are vicious and evil, like the Ku Klux Klan. And some are just plain stupid. Birthers and truthers fit somewhere between the second and the third.

Surges Aren't What They Used to Be

I had mentioned in my last post that the President's numbers had been sagging. This, of course, was prior to the successful killing of Osama Bin Laden. Prior to the killing, the President's approve minus disapprove had slumped to the range of -2, which, while not the absolute lowest of his Presidency, basically meant that the entire "lame duck bump" that he got following the success of the lame duck session of the last congress, combined with improving economic conditions, had entirely faded. Very predictably, the President, got a bump from the killing of Bin Laden. His daily numbers since my last report are below.

With the killing occurring right at the beginning of May, you see exactly the same pattern in his monthly numbers.

What is interesting is that while the President certainly got a bump from getting Bin Laden, it is nowhere near the bumps that past Presidents have seen in uniting moments like this for the country. George Hebert-Walker Bush saw his approval rating climb to over 90% in some polls following the success of the first Persian Gulf War. The same was true for George Walker Bush following the immediate aftermath of September 11th. By that standard, Obama's poll bump seems pretty modest.

But times are different. For one thing, we've been at war for 10 years, so the unifying effects of a military operation have been significantly muted. For another, the economic is still very tough for a great many people. Unemployment, while well down off its high, is still a painful 9.0%, a full 1.5% higher than the worst it got during H.W. Bush's administration, when his approval sank as low as the 20s. Thirdly, we are clearly more polarized -- the days of a President having 90%+ approval may be gone for good. And finally, and this is a good thing, voters actually seem to be viewing this through a sophisticated lens. The President's approval on foreign policy matters has jumped to multi-year highs as has his approval on the war on terror. In other words, people give the President credit for a job well done getting Bin Laden, some just don't approve of him overall because of our economic and budgetary troubles. That is a completely fair, well-reasoned point of view.

As I say just about every week now, election 2012 is all about the economy. Killing Bin Laden is a crowning achievement for President Barack Obama's legacy. But the things that build legacies are not necessarily the ones that win elections.

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