One kill does not a pres­i­dency make

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary -

The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s dar­ing night­time at­tack by com­man­dos who killed Osama bin Laden and four of his aides has dealt al Qaeda ter­ror­ists a se­vere but far from fa­tal blow.

Bin Laden’s death at the hands of U.S. spe­cial op­er­a­tions forces de­liv­ered the mes­sage that we sent to al Qaeda ter­ror­ist lead­ers nearly 10 years ago: If you at­tack our coun­try and kill our cit­i­zens, we will hunt you down and kill you.

But al Qaeda has long since turned into a global fran­chise whose cells have per­pe­trated count­less deadly ter­ror­ist at­tacks in Europe, Asia, the Mid­dle East and Africa — and have at­tempted sim­i­lar acts here at home since the Sept. 11, 2001, at­tacks that killed nearly 3,000 peo­ple.

Al Qaeda will be seek­ing to avenge bin Laden’s death and it is no doubt plot­ting even now to at­tack Amer­i­cans here and in our mil­i­tary in­stal­la­tions around the world. We are now on higher alert, and for good rea­son.

“Al Qaeda re­mains a dan­ger­ous en­emy. Though bin Laden is dead, the war goes on. We must re­main vig­i­lant, es­pe­cially now,” for­mer Vice Pres­i­dent Dick Cheney warned last week.

But for now, Pres­i­dent Obama, his na­tional se­cu­rity team and U.S. mil­i­tary forces have de­liv­ered on Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush’s prom­ise to bring bin Laden to jus­tice “dead or alive.”

The most suc­cess­ful man­hunt in U.S. his­tory was the painstak­ing re­sult of a decade of in­tel­li­gence work by the CIA, which had to re­build its al­most­nonex­is­tent ground in­tel­li­gence in the Mid­dle East. And it did. Bin Laden’s most trusted courier, who was spot­ted in a white Suzuki by Pak­istani agents work­ing for the CIA, even­tu­ally led them to bin Laden’s com­pound, just 35 miles from Pak­istan’s cap­i­tal.

The well-trained mil­i­tary spe­cial op­er­a­tions forces that car­ried out the raid were born out of the Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion’s de­fense re­forms cham­pi­oned by for­mer De­fense Sec­re­tary Don­ald H. Rums­feld.

While many post-Sept. 11 fac­tors con­trib­uted to the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s mis­sion, it will al­ways be seen as one of the sin- gu­lar suc­cesses of Mr. Obama’s pres­i­dency. No one can, nor should, take that away from him.

But will it, in and of it­self, im­prove his sag­ging job ap­proval polls and help him win a sec­ond term?

That is un­clear right now. The weak econ­omy con­tin­ues to re­main the dom­i­nant is­sue of this decade and Mr. Obama’s mis­han­dling of the econ­omy is get­ting poor marks from a ma­jor­ity of Amer­i­cans.

Last month’s Gallup poll found “More than half of Amer­i­cans [55 per­cent] de­scribe the U.S. econ­omy as be­ing in a re­ces­sion or de­pres­sion. . . . An­other 16 per­cent of Amer­i­cans say the econ­omy is ‘slow­ing down,’ and 27 per­cent be­lieve it is grow­ing.”

Two weeks ago, the Com­merce Depart­ment said the econ­omy’s growth had slowed sig­nif­i­cantly in the first three months of this year, fall­ing from 3.1 per­cent in last year’s fourth quar­ter to 1.8 per­cent through Jan­uary, Fe­bru­ary and March.

At the same time, the num­ber of work­ers fil­ing for job­less ben­e­fits has been ris­ing in re­cent weeks, inch­ing up to 429,000 late last month.

Once-bullish econ­o­mists were low­er­ing their growth fore­casts for the com­ing year as well. “We’ve taken our fore­cast down just a bit, tak­ing into ac­count fac­tors like weaker con­struc­tion and pos­si­bly just a bit less mo­men­tum in the econ­omy,” Fed­eral Re­serve Chair­man Ben S. Bernanke said. Even some of Mr. Obama’s lib­eral eco­nomic cheer­lead­ers were be­com­ing down­right gloomy.

“In nor­mal times, that’d be dis­ap­point­ing. In a re­cov­ery, it’s down­right ter­ri­ble,” said Ezra Klein, the Wash­ing­ton Post’s eco­nomic an­a­lyst said in ref­er­ence to the 1.8 per­cent GDP growth. “We’re 7 mil­lion jobs be­low where we were when the re­ces­sion be­gan,” Mr. Klein writes. “The dic­tio­nary de­fines re­cov­ery as a ‘restora­tion to a for­mer or bet­ter con­di­tion.’ Our econ­omy isn’t any­where near its for­mer con­di­tion, and 1.8 per­cent GDP growth isn’t enough to get us there.”

But other ma­jor fis­cal and eco­nomic head­winds con­tinue to bat­ter the Obama econ­omy. Global oil prices are ris­ing to more than $114 a bar­rel, push- ing gaso­line prices to more than $4 a gal­lon. The hous­ing in­dus­try re­mains in a de­pres­sion with many more fore­clo­sures still to come. Clearly, Mr. Obama’s $1 tril­lion eco­nomic stim­u­lus has proven to be an ab­ject fail­ure, bal­loon­ing gov­ern­ment spend­ing and record debt lev­els as well. Mr. Obama’s bud­get deficit this year is ex­pected to hit $1.6 tril­lion. And for the first time in mod­ern U.S. his­tory, Trea­sury bonds may no longer re­ceive a AAA rat­ing.

These and other bleak fis­cal and eco­nomic fore­casts are not go­ing to change any­time soon, send­ing Mr. Obama and his party into the 2012 elec­tions with a set of is­sues that has turned a ma­jor­ity of the elec­torate against them. How much will bin Laden’s death count po­lit­i­cally 18 months from now? With se­vere in­fla­tion­ary pres­sures, a debt-rid­den gov­ern­ment, $4 a gal­lon gas, near 9 per­cent un­em­ploy­ment and weak eco­nomic growth on the hori­zon, prob­a­bly not much.

Don­ald Lam­bro is a syn­di­cated colum­nist and for­mer chief po­lit­i­cal cor­re­spon­dent for The Wash­ing­ton Times.

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