If your heart is weary of its disappointment in Barack Obama–over the scuttled public option in health care, his Bush-friendly Justice Department, or his decision to send 30,000 new troops and more than $30 billion into Afghanistan–give it a little defibrillation with this thought: What if Obama catches Osama bin Laden in the next 18 months?
Big if, I know. And Obama didn’t say that’s what all those boots on the ground (plus all those shoes worn by the tens of thousands of contractors who will accompany them) were about; in fact, the president mentioned Osama just once in his Afghanistan speech at West Point, and then only in passing, when he said the Taliban’s refusal to give bin Laden up justified our first invasion.
But after watching a Republican Congress with razor-thin majorities get everything it wanted for 10 years or so, and then watching a Democratic Congress with razor-thin majorities get little more the blame for a bank bailout engineered by the Bushies, harpooning the Great White Whale for American vengeance is just about the only card Obama can pull out of his hat to restore faith in his leadership.
And boy, would it ever. Catching the beanpole bomber of jihad would not just be about showing George W. Bush up for the abject failure that he was; after all, we can’t even be sure that getting bin Laden was ever really Bush’s goal. Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) said on MSNBC last week that the Bush administration "apparently intentionally let bin Laden get away" when we had him cornered in Tora Bora in 2002 because they knew if they nabbed him "there would be no justification for an invasion in Iraq."
We do have some reason to think that, while still demanding more blood and treasure for these wars, the Obama administration may well have gone back to first principles on the whole conflict. Earlier this week, Gen. Stanley McChrystal told Congress, "It would not defeat al-Qaida to have him captured or killed, but I don’t think that we can finally defeat al-Qaida until he is captured or killed."
Not as ornery as Bush’s "dead or alive," but a bit more believable. Plus, we have this, from CBS correspondent Lara Logan, on Colbert last night: