When he was running for President what so many people liked about Barack Obama was his willingness to pass praise on to others. When he would be hailed as a great orator he would go to great lengths to stress that he was the voice of a movement. When asked about his popularity he would point out that he was nothing without the grass roots.
Not any more. Today the President claimed personal credit for the killing of Osama Bin Laden.
In a speech delivered late on Sunday evening US time Obama claimed personal credit for the finding and killing of Osama Bin Laden.
I will quote just one section:
“And so shortly after taking office, I directed Leon Panetta, the director of the CIA, to make the killing or capture of bin Laden the top priority of our war against al Qaeda, even as we continued our broader efforts to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat his network.
Then, last August, after years of painstaking work by our intelligence community, I was briefed on a possible lead to bin Laden. It was far from certain, and it took many months to run this thread to ground. I met repeatedly with my national security team as we developed more information about the possibility that we had located bin Laden hiding within a compound deep inside of Pakistan. And finally, last week, I determined that we had enough intelligence to take action, and authorized an operation to get Osama bin Laden and bring him to justice.
Today, at my direction, the United States launched a targeted operation against that compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. A small team of Americans carried out the operation with extraordinary courage and capability. No Americans were harmed. They took care to avoid civilian casualties. After a firefight, they killed Osama bin Laden and took custody of his body.”
I count five uses of I or my in just three paragraphs. There is a clear message here: Barack Obama made this happen.
Consider the line: “shortly after taking office, I directed Leon Panetta, the director of the CIA, to make the killing or capture of bin Laden the top priority”.
This is clearly an attempt to suggest that under Bush there was another top priority – that he was too focused on Iraq or other gals and had taken his eye off the ball when it came to chasing down Bin Laden. In fact Bush would deny this, he always claimed that getting Bin Laden was his top priority, but history is written by the victors and in this case that is Obama.
Obama has been battered over the last two years, including his infamous “shellacking” in the midterms last November. He has come out fighting today and this may well be the catalyst to him winning again in 2012.
There is no doubt that he will enjoy a huge boost in the polls. The scenes of thousands of Americans on the streets celebrating show just how deeply ingrained into the American psyche Bin Laden’s name is.
But the choice of words used in Obama’s speech (delivered an hour late, presumably because of frantic rewriting) are clear and decisive. In the week in which he has had to prove his place of birth in the face of ridiculous rumours by Republican figures Obama is saying “vote for me and I will things done.” Last week he said that he didn’t want to produce his the certificate as he had other things to do. At the time that comment was thought of as a bit silly but maybe now it makes sense. While Republicans were squabbling over birth rights the President was hunting down the most wanted man in the world.
This is no longer about “Yes we can” this is “Yes I do”.