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Amid Cheer, a Chasm Opens

Amid Cheer, a Chasm Opens

By Ruben Navarrette - May 4, 2011

SAN DIEGO -- Americans should feel proud of the events leading to the killing of Osama bin Laden by Navy SEALs at a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. But they should also feel a tad embarrassed by the childish way in which some of their countrymen reacted to the news.

I'm not talking about the boisterous public celebrations at Ground Zero and the White House that some liberal bloggers found distasteful. There was nothing wrong with that. Those were spontaneous acts of patriotism. Besides, there's good reason for Americans to celebrate the death of an enemy of the state and the mastermind of the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

The embarrassing part was how some Americans couldn't wait to cast this historic event in partisan terms, either denying credit to the Bush administration and giving it entirely to the Obama administration -- or the other way around. Instead of relishing this rare opportunity for everyone to come together and mark the accomplishment of an important goal for the country, many Americans instinctively retreated into camps of red or blue.

This was already painfully obvious to anyone who, in the first 24 hours after President Obama announced that bin Laden was dead, spent time on some of the most popular social media websites. Sides were being taken. But it became official when an article was posted by Kasie Hunt and Mike Allen of Politico noting: "The hunt for Osama bin Laden is over, but the quest for credit is just getting started. ... Even in a rare moment of national unity, the political stakes provide a temptation -- and even an imperative -- for the parties to jostle for maximum advantage."

And it isn't just the political parties that are jostling. Americans from all walks of life are doing the same. In Dallas, someone drew up a sign saying "Obama 1, Bush 0," and left it near the former president's home.

On the left, anti-war liberals who are usually less than enthusiastic about the use of U.S. military power have gone hawkish. They can't help but gloat that President Obama did what President Bush could not do after 9/11: bring Osama bin Laden to justice "dead or alive." In one particularly tasteless jab at the former president, Democratic Rep. Gary Ackerman of New York told CNN that the killing of bin Laden was "the 'Mission Accomplished' moment President Bush only fantasized about."

The reference was to the 2003 speech by Bush announcing the end of major combat operations in Iraq, as he stood before a banner that read: "Mission Accomplished."

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ruben@rubennavarrette.com

Copyright 2011, Washington Post Writers Group

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