Imagine if Donald Trump was President and U.S. special ops killed Osama bin Laden.
Imagine the braggadocio and buffoonery.
Imagine the added ill will engendered around those parts of the globe that hate America already.
Instead—love him, like him, find him disappointing, or detest him—we luckily got Barack Obama announcing that the sadistic, taunting killer we’ve been hunting for 10 years was slain by special forces (reportedly Navy Seals).
No “Osama, yo Mama!”
No displays of machismo.
No flaunting the fact that with the patience of a Big Cat, the President waited more than eight months after first being briefed on the probable whereabouts of bin Laden to pounce. This was no failed rescue of the Iranian hostages a la Jimmy Carter or bungled effort by the Bush White House to trap Osama in Tora Bora in December 2001.
No, this time, the calculated coolness that hasn’t always served Obama well was just what this tricky situation demanded.
The news of a well-deserved demise was delivered with gravitas and grace; presented (as it should have been) as the dispensing of justice to a religious maniac who has terrorized not only our world but his own. And the President made special efforts to appease Pakistan—even though the bin Laden compound was just a little farther from Islamabad than Ground Zero is from the New York suburb of Greenwich, Conn. He also made clear, as George W. Bush did before him, that America’s War on Terror is not an assault on Islam. That won’t prevent reprisals against Americans by other fanatics, but it needed to be said.
Can you imagine that sort of smooth diplomacy from a ruddy-faced and ranting reality-TV mogul?
But while Obama didn’t gloat, he subtly made clear that as Merle Haggard once wrote: “If you’re running down my country, man, you’re walking on the fighting side of me.” In fact, he did much more than that. He told the planet that if you mess with America, someday, some way, we are going to get you. That also needed to be quietly said.
So eight years to the day after George Bush’s aircraft-carrier landing to declare “Mission Accomplished,” an American President announced with all the dignity of his office that one of the primary goals of that mission has actually been realized.
Somewhere the large man with the hair and the flair who has questioned Obama’s right to be Commander-in-Chief is looking ever so small.