NPR Boosts Obama Over Political 'Game Changer' With Bin Laden Death

On Monday and Tuesday, NPR played up how Osama Bin Laden's death might translate into a political win for President Obama. Mara Liasson trumpeted the "huge victory" for the President and spotlighted a scholar who gushed how Obama now looked "strong and competent and decisive." Cokie Roberts boasted how the military operation was a "score" for the Democrat and that it was a "game changer politically."

At the beginning of her report which lead Tuesday's Morning Edition, Liasson gushed that "every president benefits from moments of national unity, but none so much as Barack Obama, who ran for office promising to bridge partisan divides." Later, the journalist noted that, with the raid against Bin Laden, "he [Obama] made good on his repeated promise to act unilaterally if he had actionable intelligence."

Liasson devoted the second half of the report to the possible political ramifications for the President, playing three sound bites from Professor George Edwards of Texas A&M University, who saw nothing but positives for the chief executive:

GEORGE EDWARDS: I think this strengthens the image of the President as a leader.

LIASSON: George Edwards is a presidential scholar at Texas A&M University.

EDWARDS: Because of the success of this decision, and this operation, it shows him as strong and competent and decisive, and he can claim a major national security victory at a time when he's been sharply criticized for lack of decisiveness- for example, in the early stages of the Libya operation- and he was dismissed as a military amateur by many conservatives.

LIASSON: The operation that killed the country's number one terrorist target earned President Obama praise from some unusual sources. Dick Cheney congratulated him, so did Donald Rumsfeld- even Donald Trump gave him credit- and although many Republicans on Capitol Hill said President Obama was just continuing the fight against al-Qaeda begun by George W. Bush, George Edwards says there's no doubt this will be a boost for the President at home, although probably not a game changer.

EDWARDS: That gives him a little more leverage in dealing with Republicans in Congress, but they are not going to fundamentally change their views on health care reform or the deficit, and the issues with which he has to deal with on the domestic front are still polarized. And so, we shouldn't expect that night is going to turn into day here.

LIASSON: Maybe not, but from this day on his Republican opponents will have to deal with the new and enduring fact that Barack Obama is the president who got Osama bin Laden.                                              

A day earlier, on Monday's Morning Edition, Liasson appeared with Renee Montagne, and it didn't take long for the NPR host to wonder how the Navy SEAL operation might benefit Mr. Obama:

MONTAGNE: Let's turn to some of the politics of this event: how big a victory is this for the President?

LIASSON: It's a huge victory. He is the president who got Osama bin Laden, and three presidents have been trying to get him for many years. This is a huge national security victory. It's generated some headlines that some people thought they'd never see, such as 'Cheney Congratulates Obama.' So very big victory for him, and he took a big risk. He decided not to bomb the compound.

Earlier in the program, Montagne and co-host Steve Inskeep brought on Roberts on Monday. After an initial question, Montagne asked, "Cokie, remind us though just how much the attacks of 9/11 changed the government." Immediately, the liberal journalist emphasized the political:

ROBERTS: Ah, well, there were some changes there, but, you know, look, the real change coming here, Renee, now is likely to be a game changer politically. This could really make a tremendous difference. The fact is, is that we have been in a real silly season, both politically and in terms of media coverage with all the business of Donald Trump and the President's birth certificate, and, you know, this reminds people of what's really important....

The stories of excited troops, of excitement in the intelligence community, and the law enforcement community, it's all likely to be seen as a triumph for the President. After all, it was the White House where people gathered as news spread about bin Laden's death last night. It was the White House where people went to shout, 'USA, USA,' not the Capitol. So I think that you have- you know, you have a score here for President Obama.


Inskeep followed through on Roberts's "game changer" phrase and noted how during "the early part of President Bush's term after 9/11, when the war went very well in Afghanistan, his approval ratings soared and that seemed to bleed over into other issues." He then wondered, "Is it possible the same thing could happen here now for President Obama?"

The NPR news analyst replied, "Yes, I think it is possible...look, it doesn't shift the deficit and the debt limit away from center stage because there are some deadlines looming there, but I do think that it shifts the tone of debate on those things...and it's going to be tough for these Republican presidential candidates, who have a debate coming up this week- how they handle this."

Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan is a news analyst at Media Research Center