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Playing politics

May 2, 2012 - By Steven R. Peck

The president is capitalizing on the death of bin Laden, and anyone else would do the same

Red alert: It's a political year, and politicians are accusing other politicians of ... "playing politics."

The primary case in point this week is the first anniversary of the death of Osama bin Laden. President Obama ordered the daring mission by U.S. Navy SEALS who located the al-Qaida terrorist kingpin in Pakistan last year and shot him dead.

Now, six months away from the general election that will either secure a second term for Obama or oust him from office, the president is reminding voters that he was the commander in chief who took down the man responsible for the 9/11 terrorist attacks and dozens of other deadly deeds against innocent people around the world.

That's unfair, say the president's many political opponents. Inappropriate. Insensitive. Purely political. A diversionary tactic from other issues. Pandering to the voters. Transparent and opportunistic.

Well, duh.

Of course that's what President Obama is doing. And it's exactly what Mitt Romney would be doing if only he had the chance.

It was an open secret after the 9/11 attacks in 2001 that many Democrats hoped then-President George W. Bush wouldn't find bin Laden before his first term ended, because if he were found, it would make Bush impossible to defeat in 2004. Some went so far as to say one reason the Bush administration encouraged the myth that Iraqi president Saddam Hussein was behind the 9/11 attacks (bulletin: He wasn't) was that Saddam would be easier to capture or kill than bin Laden would be -- and, thus, easier to use as election capital.

That might be stretching things, but Bush certainly did use Saddam's capture as a campaign tool for his 2004 re-election bid against challenger John Kerry. And what did Kerry accuse Bush of doing? Playing politics with Saddam's capture and trial.

If you are an elected official in a fight for your political life, you play politics with anything and everything. This is the era of trying to score political points based on what kind of sandwich a candidate orders at a local diner, how much his haircut costs or whether he looks cool shooting a basketball.

Heck, even "Joe the Plumber" is running for Congress this year.

So, yes -- a thousand times yes -- President Obama is going to remind us that he was the man in charge when bin Laden was shot by the Navy SEALs. He was the man who gave the "go" order. He was the tense man shown watching a video feed from the mission site as the commandos moved in. He'd be a fool not to.

Imagine what Obama's detractors would be doing now if the mission had failed. Do you suppose they might be playing politics with it? Remember Kerry demanding "where is Osama bin Laden" to Bush during their debates?

One commentator joked last year that if bin Laden had been captured or killed during the Bush administration, Bush would be on Mount Rushmore before the year was out. As it was, his political spinmasters somehow managed to make the 9/11 terrorist nightmare a positive for Bush, even though it happened on his watch.

Mitt Romney complained about Obama's "political opportunism" a day or two ago as the anniversary of bin Laden's death neared. Romney did it while standing next to the lionized Rudy Giuliani, celebrated as "the Mayor of America" after 9/11, and who tried to milk every opportunistic drop out of his fine response to the World Trade Center attack when he was mayor of New York -- including a run for president himself.

And why wouldn't he? When you're a guitar player, you play guitar. When you're a quarterback, you play football. And when you're a politician, you play politics.

Like it or not, killing the head of al Qaida is Obama's fastest horse this election year, and he's going to ride it. To pretend that it could be otherwise is not only naive, but laughable.

-- Steven R. Peck

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