Osama death only temporary political boost for Obama, say experts

May 03, 2011 09:53 pm | Updated December 04, 2021 11:06 pm IST - Washington:

The goodwill accruing to United States President Barack Obama for his administration's achievement in tracking down and killing al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden will certainly yield tangible benefits for him in domestic politics but may not make a decisive difference to his prospects in the presidential elections of November 2012, experts here concurred.

In comments to The Hindu , William Galston, an expert on domestic politics and a former policy adviser to President Bill Clinton, said Mr. Obama's standing with the public as a strong leader had been in “pretty steady decline,” and there was reason to expect that Osama's killing would help “re-strengthen” the President in this regard.

Yet, Mr. Galston said, even if Mr. Obama's overall standing benefited from a short-term boost in popularity, it was “not likely to last long,” if the history of other presidencies had any lessons to offer about initial public enthusiasm subsiding as the President's term in office progressed.

While experts concurred that the administration's actions to capitalise on this achievement could make a significant difference in the near term, they also said that “seizing the moment would imply that Mr. Obama needs to take some risks,” similar to the risks he took in deciding to go after Osama. This may include acceding to demands that are unpopular within his party, according to sources.

Some scholars of U.S. domestic politics did emphasise that Osama's death would help vindicate the President's governance style, and give “credence to patient tenacious approach.”

Speaking to The Hindu , Pietro Nivola, Senior Fellow of governance studies at the Brookings Institution, said, “Democrats have had difficulty establishing their credentials as being strong on national security and [Osama's death] helps establish their bona fide in that realm.”

He further said that in terms of the Republican Party's options, it would become “harder for them to critique [Mr. Obama] as vacillating ... so the GOP will be better off sticking to domestic economic issues and tone down their complaints about the administration's foreign policy.”

Similar to Mr. Galston, Mr. Nivola agreed that while Osama's death would likely give the President a “temporary boost and strengthen his hand in the forthcoming negotiations,” over the deficit and tax cuts, the “staying power” of such achievements was not clear. For example the impact of the former President, George W. Bush's resounding success in winning the Gulf war similarly did not last long, Mr. Nivola suggested.

It would certainly give the President good cover on national security issues going into the 2012 elections and have “enduring value” in that regard, but it was too early to tell whether it will decisively alter electoral prospects that year.

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