There's a lot of debate right now about what effect Osama bin Laden's death will have on the president's poll numbers and his power in Congress. The most interesting data I've seen is this study from Public Opinion Strategies showing that the average "bounce" from a major national-security story is 13 points and lasts 22 weeks. But I think what's most relevant here is somewhat more intangible: it's that Obama now has a simple rejoinder to the crude attacks on his foreign policy. A good example of such an attack is the current (and spectacularly ill-timed) cover of the Weekly Standard** accusing Obama of "Leading From Behind." Obviously, killing and capturing Osama bin Laden is not going to allow Obama to suddenly remake the Middle East, and it may not even have a pronounced effect on U.S. foreign policy. But it does go a long way toward solving a problem that Jonathan Chait identified last week. Chait pointed out that regardless of your thoughts about Obama's foreign policy, it was impossible to distill into a bumper-sticker slogan, which actually does matter since the venues in which politics gets debated--cable news shows, etc.--don't allow for nuance. To illustrate his point, Chait cheekily crammed a description of Obama's foreign policy onto a bumper sticker (spolier: it's tough to read). I think the most beneficial aspect of bin Laden's death for Obama is that it provides him with a crude (but effective!) rejoinder to the crude attacks on his foreign policy--a rejoinder that, as you can see, fits quite nicely onto a bumper sticker.
This article available online at: