WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama drew praise from unlikely quarters on Monday for pursuing a risky and clandestine mission to kill Osama bin Laden, a successful operation that interrupted the withering Republican criticism about his foreign policy, world view, and his grasp of the office.
Former Vice President Dick Cheney declared: “The administration clearly deserves credit for the success of the operation.” Former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani of New York said: “I admire the courage of the president.” And Donald Trump declared, “I want to personally congratulate President Obama.”
As fleeting as it might prove to be, the positive tone stood in blunt contrast to the narrative that Republicans have been working to build in the opening stages of the 2012 presidential campaign.
The argument that most potential Republican candidates have been making — that Obama is a weak and indecisive leader, incapable of handling rapidly evolving events around the world — suddenly became more complicated. And the boost in stature for Obama, even if temporary, comes at a moment when a number of Republicans are deciding whether to commit themselves to the presidential race, and offered fresh evidence that he might be less vulnerable than his opponents thought he might be.
The development came at a fortuitous time for Obama, who received the worst foreign policy rating of his presidency in a New York Times/CBS News poll last month, with 46 percent of respondents saying they disapproved of his handling of international affairs. But the long-term implications for the president and his re-election were impossibly difficult to predict.
The nation’s unemployment remains relatively high and the economic recovery has yet to gain traction. Seventy percent of Americans in the Times/CBS poll last month said the country is on the wrong track and the White House is heading into what could be a bitter fight with Republicans about spending and raising the debt limit.
But at a minimum, Obama has been dealt another high-profile opportunity to try and position himself above the bitter partisan fray and offer a voice of reasoned compromise — a theme consistent with his strategy over the past six months of shedding Republican efforts to cast him as a partisan liberal out of touch with the country’s values.
“The world is safer; it is a better place because of the death of Osama bin Laden,” Obama said Monday. “Today, we are reminded that, as a nation, there’s nothing we can’t do when we put our shoulders to the wheel, when we work together, when we remember the sense of unity that defines us as Americans.”