Without a doubt, this past week (May 1-7) has been monumental for the Obama Administration. Exactly one week ago, at 11:33pm on Sunday May 1st, President Obama strolled down the cross hall on the first floor of the White House to deliver an extremely important speech to address a matter of “National Security.” To an estimated 56 million people, the leader of the free world declared that he had ordered and executed a successful mission to kill the world’s most wanted terrorist, Osama Bin Laden.
Tonight, I can report to the American people and to the world that the United States has conducted an operation that killed Osama bin Laden, the leader of al Qaeda, and a terrorist who’s responsible for the murder of thousands of innocent men, women, and children.
This moment was monumental not only because “justice” was done to a man who killed 3000 Americans , but also because this news was a shock to the majority of Americans, 2/3rds of whom polls showed doubted that America would ever find him. In response to the news, hundreds upon hundreds of people gathered in front of the White House, Times Square, and even Ground Zero. For the entire week, details of the mission dominated the news cycle. Everything from how the Navy SEALS killed Bin Laden to President Obama deciding not to release the picture of the dead Bin Laden was discussed, debated, and analyzed.
The killing of Bin Laden yielded enormous and much needed political benefit to the President who was, just two weeks ago, released his birth certificate after being rigorously accused of being an illegitimate president. One poll conducted after the killing of Osama Bin Laden, gave the President’s previously slumping approval ratings an 11 point increase to 56%. Obama also saw significant increases in Americans’ approval of his handling of the War in Afghanistan and his handling of Terrorism.
If history is a judge, bumps in approval ratings are common after moments of national concern or pride, but quickly fade away with time. For President Obama, his increase in approval may be more temporary than he would like. While the killing of Bin Laden was nice, it was extremely symbolic and will not yield any immediate and tangible results. His death will not end our multiple military engagements abroad, it will not reduce the unemployment rate, and it will not decrease gas prices. Once this “honeymoon” is over(this week), the American people will go back to focusing on these much more tangible issues in which they face daily and Washington will go back to its polarizing debates about jobs, the budget deficit, and the debt ceiling.
And there is a lot to debate about. This past Friday, a better-than-expected jobs report was published showing that although the unemployment rate rose slightly to 9.0%, 244,000 jobs were added in April 2011. The job estimates for the previous two months were also revised upwards, showing the job market is on the right trajectory and is slowly improving. If jobs keep growing at this pace and is accompanied with a decreasing unemployment rate, the President will benefit as people become more confident about the economy. However, the President will not benefit if gas prices continue on its upward trajectory, now averaging around 4 dollars per gallon nationally. Unless gas prices about face, politicians will politicize the rising gas prices that do face a serious chance of hurting the economic recovery.
Another issue that will return to the forefront is the debate over the debt limit. In Washington, congress got more time to negotiate the raising of the debt ceiling(click here for background on debt ceiling). The treasury secretary last week announced that increased tax revenues pushed back the date to August. Therefore, this upcoming Tuesday, Vice-President Biden will again meet (first met on 5/5) with a bipartisan group of congressmen to agree on a framework for long-term deficit reduction that would encourage republicans to allow the increase of the debt ceiling. In addition to the topics already at hand, President Obama will grab attention as he is slated to give a major speech on immigration reform this Tuesday. This speech comes after weeks of Presidential meetings with Immigration leaders, but is not expected to lead to any real movement in congress.
So although the President enjoyed a week that included a historic accomplishment, a memorial trip to Downtown New York, and praise from Republicans and Democrats alike for the death of Bin Laden, Washington division and the polarizing politics as usual will slowly return.
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