Young Voters Speak Out: Each day, RR.com will spotlight politically minded youth writers from throughout the U.S. speaking their minds on Election 2012. First-time voters, student journalists and new graduates will debate the Obama vs. Romney race to the White House. Young Democrats, Republicans and ‘Undecided’ Americans are eager to play politics and choose the next Commander & Chief.
Read Samantha Schoenfeld's thoughts from a left-leaning perspective:
My generation will always remember two profound American events: the September 11, 2001 attacks, and Osama bin Laden's death. I was in my first week of middle school when another student told me a plane had crashed into the "Twin Towers" on 9/11; I was in my college apartment feverishly flipping the channels as news broke of a national event on Twitter on May 2, 2011.
The Face of History
There are faces to every story. For 9/11, nationally that face was, of course, President George W. Bush. For those of us who lived near New York City, that face was Mayor Rudy Giuliani. For the killing of Osama bin Laden, that face was twofold: first, President Barack Obama, and second, the group known as Seal Team Six.
Giuliani's 9/11 Legacy
Rudy Giuliani ran, unsuccessfully, for the Republican nomination for president in 2008 largely based his handling of NYC following the attacks on the World Trade Center. Was he a first responder, pulling charred, barely vital bodies from the rubble at Ground Zero? No. But he did a fantastic job keeping the city running and created unity among typically disconnected city dwellers. So he gets credit in history books.
Who Killed bin Laden?
A similar case can be made for President Obama. In recent weeks a non-profit group called Special Operations OPSEC Education Fund Inc, released a documentary discrediting Obama for the takeout of bin Laden and bashing his administration's security leaks. They're not bad points; in the President's televised address on May 2 he used "I," "my," "we" approximately 20 times in reference to his leading the mission, though he was sitting at home in the White House as the Navy Seals carried out the task. And he did announce the accomplishment quickly after it happened, possibly too soon as the members of the documentary say, and possibly jeopardized lives and other missions in the process. A fair case can be made that this was done for political gain.
Credit Where Credit is Due
But seriously, is he wrong, to use an event achieved during his administration that unifies the country for political gain? No. Also, do the points made in the documentary take away from his foreign policy record, or that his administration did successfully take bin Laden down? No. He kept his promise to work towards ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that started post-9/11, and killing bin Laden was a huge step forward in that mission. As the documentary says, "politics should never come before national security," but the nation was eager to know of bin Laden's death for 10 years, and it was comforting to know.
Obama Still Wins on Foreign Policy
I agree with Obama campaign spokesman, Ben LaBolt, in his quote to Reuters that "the Republicans are resorting to 'Swift Boat' tactics because when it comes to foreign policy and national security, Mitt Romney has offered nothing but reckless rhetoric." Romney has sat in his cushy offices all his life, and has never participated in federal politics. Paul Ryan's Congressional experience helps, but everyone knows he's mostly an economics nerd, while Obama has had over three years to learn foreign policy and Joe Biden's a foreign policy wonk. Also, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton has consistently ranked as the most popular member of government over the last three years, boosting the administration's foreign standing. So yes, it is certainly possible that his campaign is leeching onto this video to distract voters from his and running mate Paul Ryan's lack of foreign policy experience.
Former Navy Seal Ben Smith said in the video: "Mr. President: you did not kill Osama bin Laden; America did." But Obama deserves credit for creating the conditions for the event and briefly unifying the country.