President Obama performed an astonishingly difficult balancing act between the release of his birth certificate and his announcement of Osama bin Laden's death — and pulled it off dazzlingly.
Wednesday, he made light of claims that he was born outside the country and gently chastised his critics to grow up. Friday, he authorized the attack that killed the country's most hated enemy since Hitler. Saturday, he honed his comic delivery to slay the audience at the White House Correspondents Dinner. Sunday, he announced bin Laden's death, in a pitch-perfect speech he wrote himself.
You usually need to look to comic books to find someone moving so skillfully between roles: Bruce Wayne donning a tuxedo to charm Gotham society one night, Batman capturing his arch-enemy the next. It's the kind of thing that doesn't happen in real life.
But it did.
The balancing act began Wednesday, when Obama gave in to demands from prospective Republican presidential contender Donald Trump and others that he release his long-form birth certificate to prove, once again, that he was born in the U.S.
"We do not have time for this kind of silliness," Obama said. "We've got better stuff to do."
He wasn't kidding. He already knew Wednesday that U.S. forces were closer than ever to closing in on the man they had hunted since even before Sept. 11, 2001.
On Sunday, they put a bullet through bin Laden's head — acting, as Obama matter-of-factly noted, "at my direction." But that was the extent to which he took the credit.
In a speech he must have dreamed for years of delivering — and fine-tuned up until the last minute — he praised U.S. troops who acted "with extraordinary courage and capability." He aligned himself with President Bush by noting that both had made clear "that our war is not against Islam."
He included moving tributes to those killed on Sept. 11, and powerful imagery — "hijacked planes cutting through a cloudless September sky" — that made Trump's suggestions he hadn't written his first book himself seem even more groundless.
Saturday night was dedicated to skillful politcs — a deft dismantling of a flashy opponent to whom he seemed to pay little mind. Sunday night was devoted to reflection on the country's losses, a celebration of its victory, and a call for national unity across parties, races, and religions.
It came after weeks of pounding by Trump, his most vocal critic of late, who gained traction by questioning the president's birth certificate, how he got into Harvard Law, and whether he really wrote "Dreams From My Father." Trump had suggested, without offering any evidence, that it was written by Weather Underground co-founder Bill Ayers.
But nothing undercuts the claim you're soft on terrorists like killing the world's worst terrorist.
On Sunday night, the announcement of bin Laden's death cut into a demonstraton of Trump's own leadership — his exceedingly diplomatic firing of a Playboy Playmate from "Celebrity Apprentice."