There are many phrases you could use to describe President Obama’s trip to Afghanistan yesterday. “The prudent act of a confident leader,” is not one of them. Just hours after Obama left six were killed in a car bombing outside compound housing Westerners in Kabul.
The trip started out as the worst kept secret in Washington, when a Huffington Post reporter spotted an Afghanistan television tweet that Obama had just landed in Kabul. The White House immediately moved to quash the story but it had already been picked up by BuzzFeed and The New York Post. The White House forced each outlet to remove their report, they even forced BuzzFeed’s Ben Smith to issue a tweet flatly denying the truth.* But each step of the way, Drudge Report blasted the news at the top of its page, eventually relying on Xinhua, the official Chinese agency of the People’s Republic of China. No one was surprised by Obama’s trip.
It may have been expected, even justified for Obama to take some kind of victory lap on the anniversary of Osama bin Laden’s assassination by Navy SEALs. But at more than 14,000 miles round-trip, and considering that Obama had not visited a war zone once in the previous 17 months, the timing of the expedition smacks of desperation.
According to Gallup, “the possibility of a future terrorist attack” is the 13th most pressing issue on Americans’ minds behind even “hunger and homelessness,” “drug use,” and “the environment.” This is not an issue people care about.
But Obama must talk about something other than his economic record. This Friday, the Department of Labor will issue its monthly jobs report. If the rising numbers of unemployment claims are any indication, the report will not be good. Coupled with last week’s report showing weak gross domestic product growth, it looks like the economy may be stalling. If it does, the Obama recovery will be, by far, the weakest recovery since the Great Depression.
Killing ten bin Laden’s won’t help Obama get reelected then.
* Ben Smith has contacted us to protest the characterization that he was "forced" to take down the original story. The link to BuzzFeed's account has always been linked to above, but here is the relevant passage:
A few minutes later, at 9:33, National Security Council Spokesman Tommy Vietor called BuzzFeed editor-in-chief Ben Smith, who had retweeted the report, to ask that the tweet be taken down, warning that it would endanger the life of the president and everyone with him if the tweet was not removed.
"Like most news organizations, we will typically defer to the White House's judgment on true security risks," Smith said, explaining why BuzzFeed complied with the request. "In this case, we had no original reporting on the subject, and it didn't seem like right moment to have an abstract argument about the contemporary media ecosystem, though I think it's getting harder and harder to unring these bells."