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Posted at 11:24 AM ET, 05/03/2011

Obama and war and peace

An eruption of comity can last about 48 hours, max, in today’s political environment. There are too many organizations for which divisiveness is the core of the business model. So although President Obama said last night that he hoped the feeling of unity post-Osama would last, he surely knows he’s dreaming.

Ideally, we’d have a few days to feel good about the hard work of the countless people who tracked Osama bin Laden over the past 15 years, and to the members of the military that pulled off a risky and courageous operation.

Think of the lives devoted to this cause: The people who work behind the scenes, without any hope of glory, and with total dedication to the mission, trying to figure out where this guy was hiding. To those men and women, congratulations. Hard work pays off, sometimes — amazing, isn’t it?

But soon we need to get on to the important business of political shenanigans and name-calling. We need to get back to gridlock. Remember, if we all started to get along, two-thirds of the people in this town would be out of a job.

Two obvious sources of division present themselves: First, the hawks will push Obama to go hard after the Pakistani military that quite obviously was harboring bin Laden or providing some kind of support (see the Hitchens piece at Slate). It’ll be hard to paint Obama as weak-willed given that he just pulled the trigger on the world’s top terrorsit, but the president’s hardened enemies will give it a whirl.

The second is the debt issue. I had been thinking that a deal could emerge from the current debt crisis. Now I think the debt deal died with bin Laden.

Call me cynical, but it’s a pure political calculation: Obama doesn’t look vulnerable on foreign policy. Had the bin Laden operation failed, as David Corn has pointed out, the Republicans would have pounded the president for being ineffectual and weak and whatnot. But Obama looks quite comfortable as commander-in-chief, and he’s got results to crow about.

He also seems to be fully capable of handling the stress of the job without breaking a sweat. Look at how he went through the varied moves required of a president (visiting a disaster site, making a commencement speech, schmoozing with Hollywood celebs) in the few days before the bin Laden operation.

The only way the Republicans can deny Obama a second term is if they persuade the public that the president is fundamentally wrecking the economy and/or mortgaging the future with excess government spending. They can’t let Obama tease a long-term debt deal out of the political fight over the debt limit. Look for them to ratchet up the tension on the debt rather than seek a grand compromise.

By  |  11:24 AM ET, 05/03/2011

 
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