In going to Afghanistan and addressing the nation about the state of the decade-long war, President Obama did exactly what Republicans long have been urging him to do. But in doing so on the anniversary of the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, he sure didn't do it the way they wanted him to — certainly not if it reminded voters of the single greatest accomplishment of his presidency.
Welcome to the presidential campaign, 189 days before Election Day, when every action by an incumbent president is scrubbed for political motive. So it is hard to take the White House explanation of the timing completely at face value. Aides insist that high-level review of U.S. negotiations with Afghanistan on the Security Partnership Agreement had just concluded after 20 months of wrangling and it had to be signed before NATO leaders gather in Chicago on May 20. Closer to the mark is a senior administration official's statement that both Obama and Afghan President Hamid Karzai thought it was important to sign the SPA on Afghan soil and that the U.S. president wanted to be with American troops to mark the one-year anniversary of the killing of the 9/11 mastermind.
(FULL TEXT: Obama's Speech in Kabul)
Indeed, before he addressed the nation, the president carried a message of gratitude and praise to a hangar at Bagram Air Base packed with about 3,200 of those troops. If Obama was using bin Laden's death as a "political football," as Republicans have charged, the troops didn't seem to mind. "Slowly and systematically, we have been able to decimate the ranks of al-Qaida. And a year ago we were able to finally bring Osama bin Laden to justice," said the president, triggering cheers, applause, and whoops of "Hooah!"