It’s hardly a revelation to note that the cable and talk-radio commentariat is divided on many leading issues of the day. But in the wake of the military raid claiming the life of Osama bin Laden, the range of pundit opinion has exhibited some striking crossover maneuvers, with traditionally caustic conservative critics of President Obama congratulating the daring and resolve of the successful mission. There have also been some notable misreadings of sardonic intent–plus some simple confusion about how to process the dramatic news.
Take the remarks of “Daily Show” host Jon Stewart. In the clip featured above, the news satirist spent the first 10 minutes of his Monday’s broadcast skewering Osama bin Laden, who was killed a day earlier by U.S. special forces in Pakistan, before offering some more somber reflections.
“I am way too close to this whole episode to be rational about this in any way, shape or form,” he said. “Last night was a good night, for me, and not just for New York or D.C. or America, but for human people. The face of the Arab world in America’s eyes for too long has been bin Laden, and now it is not. Now the face is only the young people in Egypt and Tunisia and all the Middle Eastern countries around the world where freedom rises up. Al Qaeda’s opportunity is gone.”
Meanwhile, the conservative talk-radio baron Rush Limbaugh suffered something of a tonal misfire, as some listeners took his comments on the bin Laden raid–which seem unmistakably derisive in print–as an unprecedented show of heartfelt gratitude to President Obama.
“President Obama single-handedly came up with the technique in order to pull this off,” Limbaugh said on Monday. “You see, the military wanted to go in there and bomb as they always do. They wanted to drop missiles and drop bombs and a number of totally destructive techniques here. But President Obama, perhaps the only qualified member in the room to deal with this, insisted on the Special Forces. No one else thought of that. President Obama. Not a single intelligence adviser, not a single national security adviser, not a single military adviser came up with the idea of using SEAL Team 6 or any Special Forces.”
Some members of the media didn’t pick up on the joke, either. Jon Bershad of Mediaite, for instance, marveled at Limbaugh’s remarks. “Limbaugh opened his show today with huge praise for his President, his military, and his country,” Bershad noted. “That’s right, folks. America can still get along.” After some correspondents noted that Limbaugh was speaking with tongue firmly in cheek, Bershad added an update, arguing that “in the world of talk radio, everything’s relative” and that the show’s opening segment was “about as nice as Limbaugh’s ever going to get on Obama.”
Such confusion is understandable–especially since so many of Obama’s dogged pursuers were offering genuine thanks and praise to one of the most frequently lambasted figures on their broadcasts.
“I want to personally congratulate President Obama and the men and women of the Armed Forces for a job well done,” said Donald Trump, who just a week earlier was on his crusade to disprove Obama’s American citizenship, in a statement to ABC News. “We should spend the next several days not debating party politics, but in remembrance of those who lost their lives on 9/11 and those currently fighting for our freedom. God Bless America!”
Fox News host Glenn Beck also had some kind words. “First of all, congratulations to President Obama. He got him,” the conservative talk show host said in response to the news of bin Laden’s death. “Thank you, President Obama, thank you.” And Beck’s colleague on Fox, Sean Hannity, was no less expansive in his praise, saying that Obama’s leadership of the mission was “gutsy” and “the right thing to do.”
Less surprising, naturally, was the chorus of admiration offered on the left-leaning airwaves of MSNBC Monday night.
“President Bush had 2,686 days to catch Osama bin Laden. President Obama got that job done in 831 days,” said Lawrence O’Donnell,” at the start of his 8 p.m. show. “Somehow … bin Laden got the feeling that he could settle down comfortable in a walled fortress is a Pakistan suburb. But someone — someone — was still thinking about bin Laden in a lethal way. … President Obama would make his biggest national security priority getting Osama bin Laden, and so he did.”
Meanwhile, Jon Stewart brought his conflicted monologue on the meaning of bin Laden’s death to resolution on a patriotic note, suggesting that at least this one sardonic pundit actually does believe we can all just get along.
“For the last 10 years, al-Qaeda had the world’s attention. They apparently wanted an ideology competition, and for all of our rights and wrongs, all al-Qaeda seems to have come up with is, ‘Uh, we killed some Americans.” … They have nothing,” he said. “Can they still do damage? I’m sure. But we’re back, baby.”