Sunday night news of the killing of the mastermind of the September 11th terrorist attack, Osama bin Laden, quickly bequeathed a spontaneous moment of national celebration and unity not since in years. College students descended on the White House to cheer the announcement. New York’s Times Square and Ground Zero were equally effusive. The scene was repeated throughout the country from college campus to a Phillies baseball game. And many Republicans praised the president for his task.
Republican Congressional leaders issued statements last night. GOP Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, “The death of Osama bin Laden marks a long-awaited end to the work of the man responsible for the 9/11 attacks. No one who remembers the horror of that day can help but feel relieved that Osama bin Laden is dead. . . . On September 11, 2001, America came together and vowed that we would never forget the memory of those whose lives were lost on that terrible day. Tonight’s announcement shows that we have made good on that pledge.”
Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner of Ohio, “This is great news for the security of the American people and a victory in our continued fight against al Qaeda and radical extremism around the world. . . . I want to congratulate — and thank — the hard-working men and women of our Armed Forces and intelligence community for their tireless efforts and perseverance that led to this success. I also want to commend President Obama and his team, as well as President Bush, for all of their efforts to bring Osama bin Laden to justice.”
Former President George W. Bush, for whom Bin Laden remained elusive for seven years, also issued a statement: “This momentous achievement marks a victory for America, for people who seek peace around the world, and for all those who lost loved ones on September 11, 2001.” President Bush had been personally informed by President Obama on the mission.
Several announced or probable 2012 Republican presidential candidates also congratulated the president.
“I want to congratulate America’s armed forces and President Obama for a job well done,” said former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty.
Sarah Palin issued a statement via Facebook: the mission is “a testament to the hard work and dedication of these brave Americans who relentlessly hunted down our enemy,” but Palin did not mention President Obama.
Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee was frank: “Welcome to hell, bin Laden.” While former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney heralded the mission as “a great victory for lovers of freedom and justice everywhere.” He added, “congratulations to our intelligence community, our military and the president.”
And President Obama’s 2008 presidential rival Arizona Senator John McCain issued a statement to “commend the president and his team, as well as our men and women in uniform and our intelligence professionals, for this superb achievement.”
Most unreserved in accolades, however, was the man who has been most critical of the president: conservative talk radio host Rush Limbaugh. But on his Monday morning broadcast, Limbaugh exclaimed “Thank God for President Obama.”
“Ladies and gentlemen, we need to open the program today by congratulating President Obama. President Obama has done something extremely effective and when he does, this needs to be pointed out. … He did not scrub the mission to get Bin Laden. In fact, it may be that President Obama single-handedly came up with the technique in order to pull this off.
“Our military wanted to go in there and just scorch the earth, but President Obama single-handedly understood what was at stake here. He alone understood the need to get DNA to prove the death … it was President Obama single-handedly and alone who came up with the strategy that brought about the effective assassination of Osama bin Laden,” Limbaugh said.
It was a long awaited national security victory that has, for a moment at least, generated the bipartisan unity that President Obama had promised to bring to Washington. The president also promised on the campaign to find Bin Laden. In the end, the latter was a necessary condition for the former.
Update: Donald Trump also sent praise: “I want to personally congratulate President Obama,” he was quoted as saying.