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Can Triumph Transfer?
President Obama didn’t justify his policies by killing Osama bin Laden.


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Jonah Goldberg

After hearing the news that Osama bin Laden had been killed, who among us didn’t joyfully shout, “Yes! This is a huge triumph for wind and solar energy!” Or “Wahoo! Now we can get immigration reform passed!” Personally, I would like to thank every member of SEAL Team 6 for taking such huge risks for high-speed rail and streamlining the bureaucratic regulations governing salmon fishing.

If you’re confused, it’s only because you haven’t heard the White House explain the true significance of bin Laden’s death.

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According to an article in the Washington Post headlined “Bin Laden raid fits into Obama’s ‘big things’ message,” the White House believes taking out the world’s most wanted terrorist is a boon for the entire Obama agenda.

The president says killing bin Laden proves that “as a nation there is nothing that we can’t do” and reminds us “that America can do whatever we set our mind to.”

When asked what effect bin Laden’s assassination will have on Obama’s agenda, White House press secretary Jay Carney explained, “We obviously think that if there is a takeaway from it, it is the resolve that he has, the focus he brings to bear on long-term objectives, that he keeps pushing to get them done. When talking about immigration reform, he keeps pushing to get it done. And I think that that was reflected in his approach to dealing with Osama bin Laden.”

Meanwhile, David Axelrod, Obama’s former White House consigliere, now running the reelection effort, says that this was all a “reaffirmation of that American determination and American spirit — the ability to do the things that some people thought impossible. And that has value.”

Quick question: Did anyone, anywhere, think that killing bin Laden was an “impossible” task?

Killing bin Laden was no small thing, and the heroics of the men (and dog) involved warrant unwavering praise. But it wasn’t the moon landing.

But that’s not what the White House wants you to believe. Indeed, for the last two years, the president has been beginning sentences, “If we can put a man on the moon . . . ” to justify whatever he’s talking about.

That is why Axelrod says, “If there’s an enduring impact of [bin Laden’s assassination], it will be a sense of what the president said in his State of the Union address.”

Which brings us back to salmon regulations, immigration, high-speed rail, renewable energy, and other action items on Obama’s “win the future” agenda laid out in January’s address. Back then, Obama said we were in a “Sputnik moment,” referring to the time when the Soviet Union’s launch of a satellite inspired the Apollo space program and increased spending on scientific education and research.

So if I understand Axelrod correctly, killing bin Laden proves that “Yes We Can!” We can get all that “Sputnik moment” stuff done.

If all of this weren’t so hilarious, it would be infuriating. Can you imagine if President Bush had said that the success of the surge in Iraq proved we really needed to privatize Social Security after all? What if John McCain had won in 2008 and ordered the killing of bin Laden? Would Senator Obama have rallied around his former opponent’s agenda?

By all means, Obama deserves his fair share of credit for taking out bin Laden, though calling it one of the “most gutsiest calls of any president in recent memory,” as Obama adviser John Brennan did, strains credulity almost as much as it rakes the ears of grammarians.

But the most bestest part, as Brennan might say, is the simple fact that the president doesn’t know how we’ll “win the future.” In his Oval Office address on the Gulf oil spill, Obama explained that we don’t know how we’ll get where we need to go or what the destination will even look like.

But that’s the genius of the Sputnik analogy. Since, as Obama explained, “we had no idea how we would beat (the Soviets) to the moon,” it’s okay that we don’t know how to “win the future.” And that in turn means that during the weakest recovery in half a century, we can blow billions on mythical green-energy jobs, push a government takeover of health care, encourage skyrocketing gas prices, impose crippling regulations and higher taxes, and make “investments” in white elephants and high-speed salmon.

Oh, it may not seem as if we’re making progress on these fronts, but we are. You know how you can tell? Osama bin Laden is dead.

— Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online and a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. You can write to him by e-mail at [email protected], or via Twitter @JonahNRO.



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