Obama’s Winning Focus

Pete Souza / The White House

Some news events are so seismic, they redefine a nation’s sense of itself. When President Obama announced that the tragedy of 9/11 had at last been avenged, the news reached into the heart and soul of every American and created a global anthem of response that justice had at last been done. At Ground Zero the iPod generation, not inclined to think of themselves first and foremost as patriots, sang “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

Obama did not milk the moment of his triumph. He paid tribute to the “courage and capability” of the men who had carried out the nation’s will. But no banner unfurled; no trumpet sounded. He recognized that the surgical assassination of Osama bin Laden was a deed sufficient unto itself. All his big speeches in moments of crisis have shown perfect pitch. That is a rhetorical gift to be celebrated, but the triumph of the Abbottabad raid reveals something more profound—a disciplined president who is resolute in his focus.

It is sobering to reflect that in the trivial pursuits created by Donald Trump the president was unflinchingly moving toward a momentous gamble. He knew that chance had doomed similar missions to rescue hostages in Tehran and downed helicopter pilots in Mogadishu. After months of planning, the decision—“It’s a go!”—was his lonely one to make. This president has been faulted for keeping his distance, but at a time when events collide in a bedlam of news noise, we should be glad we have a cool center of command.

To mark this historic occasion, we have advanced the publication of NEWSWEEK by several days, and solicited responses from such powerful voices as Elie Wiesel, Salman Rushdie, Stephen Carter, Les Gelb, Fatima Bhutto, Sean Wilentz, and many more.