For an all-too-brief moment after President Obama's historic announcement that the U.S. had killed Osama bin Laden, there was refreshingly little of the political posturing that usually follows major news events.
Well, that was quick.
Media personalities on both sides of the ideological aisle quickly returned to playing politics, this time with the ramifications of the slain Bin Laden.
Here's a small sample:
>> Rush Limbaugh
Rush Limbaugh — who opened his radio show the day after Bin Laden's death by praising President Obama — has since snapped back into his controversial, conservative self.
Last week, Limbaugh assured listeners who were "perhaps paranoid" that Obama's poll numbers were rising that the president's electability would still be tied to the economy, not an Osama kill.
Limbaugh then demanded an apology from the White House, Democrats and "the American Left" for undermining the efforts of the Bush Administration to capture Bin Laden. "They have sought to undermine the U.S. military, not only in Iraq but around the world," Limbaugh said. "Barack Obama campaigned against the very enhanced interrogations that has made him a hero." He also criticized Obama for not thanking the Bush-Cheney White House enough in his historic speech.
>> Bill O’Reilly
O'Reilly, host of Fox News' top-rated "Factor," praised Obama for killing Bin Laden, and said the coverage of the operation had been fair — before taking a passive-aggressive swipe at the "liberal" media. “Here’s why I think the media has been fair, generally speaking, in its reportage of this incident: Because it helps Barack Obama," O'Reilly said. "And I’m not saying that with any disdain, because I do believe the president did a gutsy, good job on this.”
O'Reilly added: “I’ll tell you what’s going to happen if the right starts attacking him — the big voices on the right on radio and television. The independents will re-elect Barack Obama. Because they will say it’s unfair.”
By Monday, a full week after Bin Laden's killing, O'Reilly — who continued to call the Obama's mission "gutsy" — was on to a new talking point: "Can President Obama really protect us?"
"There are troubling questions going forward," O'Reilly said, pointing to the Army Field Manual as the only tool Americans currently have to interrogate captured terrorists. "Terrorists do not have to answer any questions at all, and nothing will happen if they don't. So if the CIA captures a person they believe knows of a nuke attack, for example, on the U.S.A., they can't do anything to make that person talk. Does that
make sense to you?"
>> Rachel Maddow
On her top-rated MSNBC show, Maddow immediately criticized Pakistan for possibly harboring Bin Laden, and suggesting they were part of the U.S. "capture or kill" operation. "For years, members of the Pakistani intelligence service had said publicly that Osama bin Laden was dead," she said, "and now that he actually is dead, they want credit for killing him."
Then, as a guest on "The Daily Show," Maddow told Jon Stewart the Bin Laden killing was "one of those stories that is impossible to mess up unless you try to get out ahead of it," i.e., the cable news-fueled punditry we are accustomed to.
"There's plenty of time to score political points on this," Maddow said. "Osama bin Laden is going to be dead forever."
Stewart, who told Maddow the pundit-free, unified reaction lasted "I think 47 minutes," did first approach the killing from an apolitical perspective on "The Daily Show," choosing to focus on the absurdity of cable news anchors trying to keep the news embargoed and the gift of "Abbottabad" to New Yawkers.
Stephen Colbert, meanwhile, couldn't contain himself. "This is huge for him, and Obama knows it,” Colbert said, before rolling a slow-motion clip of the president strutting to the podium, backed by a blaxploitation soundtrack.
>> Bill Maher
On Friday's "Real Time," Maher delivered some of the sharpest political criticism, chastising the Republican party for not getting Bin Laden, or anything else, for that matter.
"The Republicans, the fiscally conservative, strong on defense party, are neither fiscally conservative nor strong on defense," Maher said. "They have to tell us exactly what they're good at. It's not defense — 9/11 happened on your watch, and you retaliated by invading the wrong country, and you lost a 10-year game of hide and seek with Osama bin Laden. And you're responsible for running up most of the debt, which more than anything makes us weak. You're supposed to be the party with the killer instinct, but it was a Democrat who put a bomb in Gaddafi's bedroom and a bullet in Bin Laden's eye."
Later, Maher asked, "Why can’t you just admit that Barack Obama is one efficient, steely-nerved, multitasking, black ninja gangster president?”