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Joe Guzzardi President Obama enjoys bounce from Osama bin Laden's demise, but other concerns loom large

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Joe Guzzardi

Posted: Saturday, May 7, 2011 12:00 am

The good news is that Osama bin Laden is dead. The bad news is that his death doesn't change American lives one iota. The nation is still losing its battle against relentlessly high unemployment. Many lucky enough to be employed earn wages that barely pay their bills. Gasoline appears headed for $5 a gallon despite the Big Five oil companies' record-setting multi-billion dollar profits.

President Barack Obama, in full reelection mode, is currently benefiting from the post-bin Laden euphoria. Obama's polling numbers have shown a slight increase. But my advice to the president is to enjoy it while he can. When the flag-waving ends, probably by next month at the latest, Americans will return their focus to lost jobs and the soaring cost of living.

In a curious way, Obama's well-orchestrated and successful take-out of bin Laden may play out against him politically. According to analysts, most Americans had given up on the possibility of capturing or killing bin Laden. Certainly, the 10-yearlong hunt for the world's most despised terrorist wasn't going to be a campaign issue.

With bin Laden dead, other questions that Obama won't be able to avoid have appeared on his political radar. Either one could spell Obama's defeat.

First, Pakistan has been playing the United States for fools since 9/11.

What's now obvious is that bin Laden had been living for an extended period in a compound in a town with many Pakistani military officers who, at a minimum, should have known enough to be suspicious. The extended period included more than two years on Obama's watch. Nevertheless, the United States willingly believed Pakistan's word that, although it wanted to be helpful, it had no idea where bin Laden could be located and were not complicit in hiding him.

Pakistan lied. Voters may wonder how it's possible that the United States, with its extensive intelligence network, could have been deceived for so long. At a minimum, Obama should withdraw the 2010 $3 billion request for Pakistani aide. But will he?

Second, with bin Laden dead, will Obama end the Afghanistan War? The longstanding justification for the extended wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has been to make America safer from terrorist attacks. With the kingpin dead, Obama has a perfect excuse for declaring victory in Afghanistan and withdrawing.

Congressional momentum is building for a hasty exit. If no meaningful policy changes take place between today and November 2012, the Republican nominee is sure to make the Afghanistan war's folly his No. 1 issue.

Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana, the top Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee, has long questioned the war in light of the ever increasing $1.6 trillion budget deficit. Said Lugar: "With al-Qaida largely displaced from the country but franchised in other locations, Afghanistan does not carry a strategic value that justifies 100,000 American troops and a $100 billion per year cost, given current fiscal restraints."

Even Democrats wonder. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., reflected the growing skepticism about remaining heavily involved in Afghanistan. Earlier this week, Durbin said he never could have imagined at the war's outset in October 2001 that U.S. troops would still be there a decade later — "with no end in sight, even after the death of Osama bin Laden."

These are Obama's hard and risky choices: coming to terms with Pakistan as an adversary and pulling out of Afghanistan, or reelection.

My sense is that Obama won't do anything differently. Instead, he'll count on his incumbent's influence and his $1 billion campaign coffer to be reelected.

Joe Guzzardi retired from the Lodi Unified School District in 2008. He has been writing editorial opinion columns since 1986. Contact him at

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