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Political commentary from Andrew Malcolm

Category: Pentagon

Bin Laden bump fades already: Afghan war support and Obama job approval head down again

American war dead return from Afghanistan

No one ever accused Americans of being consistent in their political opinions. Now, fresh evidence.

A new Rasmussen Reports poll finds that 35% of likely voters want immediate U.S. troop withdrawal from the nearly 10-year-old war in Afghanistan. That's the highest favoring immediate withdrawal ever.

Another 21% want a firm timetable set for withdrawal within one year.

That poll's combined 56% is up four points from early March, up 13 points from last September and up 19 points from September of 2009, indicating mounting impatience with the war effort despite, or perhaps because, of two troop surges ordered by President Obama. He says he has a plan to end U.S. troop involvement there before 2015.Afghanistan war Mortar Returns fires

Of potential political significance is the fact that opposition to the nation's longest war is by far largest among members of Obama's own Democratic Party, 70% of whom favor immediate withdrawal or a firm timetable.

Among independents, that number is 54% and a growing 42% among Republicans, who once gave Obama his strongest support in that area.

This could be explained by the initial celebrations over Osama bin Laden's death actually calling renewed attention to the stubbornly ongoing war, where obvious victories are few and far between.

A new Pew Research Center poll finds Obama's approval rating, which spiked to 56% after his late-night announcement of the slaying of the Al Qaeda founder, has already fallen 10%, or six points, to 50%.

That and his disapproval rating (39%) have essentially returned to late-February levels, contrary to predictions that the positive bump would last weeks.

Pew finds views essentially unchanged among Americans about achieving the goals in Afghanistan. Sixty-two percent now say the country will probably or definitely achieve its goals there, while 24% say it will definitely or probably fail.

However, despite Bin Laden's death, those numbers too are essentially unchanged, with 49% wanting U.S. troops out ASAP and 43% willing to maintain them until the situation is stabilized.

As of today, 2,445 allied troops have died in the Afghanistan fighting, 1,572 of them American; 165 have died so far this year, 126 of them American, about one fatality per day.

The president is off to El Paso, Texas, on Tuesday to try to change the subject again. He'll talk there about how the country's immigration system is still broken despite his 839 days in office.

 -- Andrew Malcolm

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Photos: Associated Press (American war dead return from Afghanistan); Getty Images.

With Osama bin Laden dead, Obama's job approval will jump this much (for this long)

Obama and Staff Watch the deadly osama bin laden raid live on a SEALcam 5-1-11 A secret document was obscured by white house before release

Americans do not like losing. They also don't like not winning, those seemingly stalemated situations that look and feel murky.

Above most everything else, Americans like winning. 

President Obama's community helpfulness in places like Libya, now enroute to awkward quagmire status because Kadafi hasn't lasted 42 years by accident, was dragging Obama down in the polls to near Jimmy Carter numbers just as today's Democrat launched his 2012 fundraising. Obama's tardy explanation for the Libya war produced no polling bounce for him.

The lame job situation. And weak recovery. And the deficit. And sagging consumer confidence. And his own stumbles. And the endless Afghan war weren't helping either.

So, not that any such thing would ever cross a president's mind, but how better to improve the political situation at home than enjoy a national security success abroad?

Kill a bad guy overseas and watch the deadly real reality show on live video via SEALcam in the White House (see photo above) Sunday afternoon. Then call a dramatic presidential address late on a Sunday evening with the side benefit of disrupting the NBC show of that annoying Donald Trump. Osama bin Laden now deceased on FBI 10 most wanted list 5-2-11

The intentional death of al Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden early Monday morning Pakistan time at the hands of Navy SEALs who don't shoot to wound touched a national nerve of retribution and celebration.

Yes, a helicopter went down, as it did during Carter's unsuccessful attempt to rescue U.S. hostages in Iran. But this president's orders succeeded.

President Obama actually could have whacked Osama back in March without risking American lives simply by ordering a bombing run or two over the Osama compound in Abbotabad.

But that would have vaporized anybody inside or nearby and not produced an identifiable body to snuff future Elvis is alive stories.

Thirty hours later Osama's body is reportedly sleeping with the fishes somewhere. But still no photo or positive ID proof released, already giving rise to online 'deather' conspiracies. However, it's official if the FBI changes Osama's status on its Top Ten list from "Wanted" to "Deceased."

Here's another certainty: President Obama is about to experience a substantial jump in his job approval, at least on national security.

The very smart folks over at Public Opinion Strategies have been studying presidential popularity bumps for a very long time. Their research goes back to President Roosevelt's counterintuitive bump in approval after the humiliating Pearl Harbor disaster.

And they can now predict that Obama is likely to experience a 13-point bounce in approval. That would get the guy up from the low 40s to back above the symbolic 50% approval level.

And Stephen Kinney and his crew can also predict that Obama's bump in approval will last about 22 weeks.

That's roughly until the first week of October when, the Chicago crowd desperately hopes, the sagged economy will be unsagging sufficiently to deny feuding Republicans a palpable issue for their primary/caucus contests that will dominate political news come next winter.

In terms of duration Obama's bump would be on the lower end of POTUS approval jumps, about the same as John F. Kennedy's 12 point jump after the Cuban missile crisis but not as good as George W. Bush's 15 point jump after capturing the also departed Saddam Hussein.

Kennedy's bump lasted a good long 40 weeks. Bush's Saddam bounce endured only seven weeks, but the 43rd president's bounce after his handling of the 9/11 attacks lasted two years.

Related:

Yes, SEALs were in on the raid, but aides hail Obama's office bravery

What if the dead guy wasn't really Osama bin Laden?

Rush Limbaugh on Osama bin Laden's death: 'Thank God for President Obama'

Donald Trump praises Obama on Osama bin Laden's death

The death of Osama bin Laden: Statements by 2 presidents who hunted him

-- Andrew Malcolm

Your mission is to follow The Ticket via Twitter alerts of each new Ticket item. Or click this: @latimestot. Our Facebook Like page is over here. We're also available on Kindle. Use the ReTweet buttons above to share any item with family and friends.

Photo: Pete Souza / White House (Obama and staff watch live video of the deadly Osama bin Laden raid Sunday afternoon in the White House. Editor's Note: Before release the White House digitally obscured a secret document in front of Clinton); FBI.gov.

Osama bin Laden dead: Yes, SEALs were in on the raid, but aides hail Obama's office bravery

a Chinook and Blackhawk helicopter in Afghanistan 4-11

According to another one of those White House briefings of reporters designed to suck up all available credit for good news, President Obama's homeland security advisor reveals that it was a really tense time in the air-conditioned White House as unidentified U.S. Navy SEALs closed in on the world's most wanted man after midnight a half a wohomeland security advisor john Brennan 5-2-11rld away.

"Minutes passed like days," says John Brennan, who bravely stood with press secretary Jay Carney before reporters and TV cameras today chronicling his boss' weekend heroics.

The heavily-armed commandos flying in a quartet of darkened Blackhawk and Chinook helicopters more than 100 miles into Pakistan were probably listening to their iPods and discussing the NFL draft.

"The concern was that bin Laden would oppose any type of capture operation," said Obama's Sherlock Holmes. So U.S. troops were prepared "for all contingencies."

In fact, this weekend was such a tense time in the White House that Obama only got in nine holes of golf. But he still managed to deliver his joke script to the White House Correspondents Assn. dinner Saturday evening.

Sunday was, Brennan revealed to his eager audience, "probably one of the most anxiety-filled periods of times in the lives of the people assembled here." Poor poor bureaucrats. Extra Tums all around. Did someone order dinner?

There may have been a little anxiety aboard those combat choppers. Who knows? We can't hear from them. And, as every day, anxiety in the kitchens, hearts and mind of thousands of military families who put up with the terrifying uncertainty of the dangerous deeds their loved ones have volunteered to secretly do for their country.Obama Button On Guantanamo During his 49 minute presentation Brennan did squeeze in one reference to the mission's "very brave personnel."

But the emphasis, with 2012 just around the calendrical corner, was on the boss' valor. "There was nothing that confirmed that bin Laden was at that compound," Brennan related as if such uncertainty is uncommon in war.

"And, therefore," Brennan continued, "when President Obama was faced with the opportunity to act upon this, the president had to evaluate the strength of that information and then made what I believe was one of the most gutsiest calls of any president in recent memory."

According to early reports of the incident, detailed here in The Ticket, 24 SEALs rappelled down ropes from hovering Chinooks in post-midnight darkness Monday Pakistan time with Osama security forces shooting at them. Brennan didn't have much time to go into all that today, the goal is to elevate the ex-state senator to at least a one-star commander-in-chief.

Here's something else that didn't get much recognition in all the street celebrations or all-hail-Obama briefings:

The trail to Monday morning's assault on Osama's Pakistan compound began during someone else's presidency. That previous president authorized enhanced interrogation techniques which convinced folks like Khalid Shaikh Mohammed to give up, among many other things, the name of their top-secret courier, now deceased. His travels ultimately led the CIA back to Osama's six-year-old suburban home.

Related:

Rush Limbaugh on Osama bin Laden's death: 'Thank God for President Obama'

Donald Trump praises Obama on Osama bin Laden's death

-- Andrew Malcolm

Your mission is to follow The Ticket via Twitter alerts of each new Ticket item. Or click this: @latimestot. Our Facebook Like page is over here. We're also available on Kindle. Use the ReTweet buttons above to share any item with family and friends.

Photos: Denis Sinyakov / Reuters (A Chinook and Blackhawk helicopter in Afghanistan); Jewel Samad / AFP / Getty Images (Brennan); Photo illustration by Andrew Malcolm.

The death of Osama bin Laden: Statements by two presidents, Obama and Bush

Osama bin laden FBI 10 Most Wanted poster

President Obama's statement on the death of Osama bin Laden, as provided by the White House

THE PRESIDENT:  Good evening. Tonight, I can report to the American people and to the world that the United States has conducted an operation that killed Osama bin Laden, the leader of al Qaeda, and a terrorist who’s responsible for the murder of thousands of innocent men, women, and children.

It was nearly 10 years ago that a bright September day was darkened by the worst attack on the American people in our history.  The images of 9/11 are seared into our national memory -- hijacked planes cutting through a cloudless September sky; the Twin Towers collapsing to the ground; black smoke billowing up from the Pentagon; the wreckage of Flight 93 in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where the actions of heroic citizens saved even more heartbreak and destruction.

And yet we know that the worst images are those that were unseen to the world.  The empty....

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Obama on Libya: Intervention prevented more bloodshed

President Obama 

The President’s Address to the Nation on Libya

(As prepared by the White House)

National Defense University Washington, D.C., March 28, 2011

Good evening. Tonight, I’d like to update the American people on the international effort that we have led in Libya –- what we have done, what we plan to do, and why this matters to us.

I want to begin by paying tribute to our men and women in uniform who, once again, have acted with courage, professionalism and patriotism. They have moved with incredible speed and strength. Because of them and our dedicated diplomats, a coalition has been forged and countless lives have been saved.

Meanwhile, as we speak, our troops are supporting our ally Japan, leaving Iraq to its people, stopping the Taliban’s momentum in Afghanistan, and going after al Qaeda around the globe. As Commander-in-Chief, I am grateful to our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, Coast Guardsmen, and their families, as are all Americans.

For generations, the United States of America has played a unique role as an anchor of global security and advocate for human freedom. Mindful of the risks and costs of military action, we are naturally reluctant to use force to solve the world’s many challenges.

But when our interests and values are at stake, we have a responsibility to act. That is what happened in Libya over the course of these last six weeks.

Libya sits directly between Tunisia and Egypt – two nations that inspired the world when their people rose up to take control of their own destiny. For more than four decades, the Libyan people have been ruled by a tyrant – Moammar Gaddafi. He has denied his people freedom, exploited their wealth, murdered opponents at home and abroad, and terrorized innocent people around the world – including Americans who were killed by Libyan agents.

Last month, Gaddafi’s grip of fear appeared to give way to the promise of freedom. In cities and towns across the country, Libyans took to the streets to claim their basic human rights. As one Libyan said, “For the first time we finally have hope that our nightmare of 40 years will soon be over.”

Faced with this opposition, Gaddafi began attacking his people. As President, my immediate concern was the safety of our citizens, so we evacuated our Embassy and...

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Late-night's best: Libya, Libya, Zuckerberg and Libya

an angry female commuter in Benghazi Libya

As The Ticket's 61,000-plus Twitter followers here and 6,600 Facebook fans here know, we regularly share our daily picks of the late-night jokes of interest, usually before broadcast each night. Feel free to pass them on to friends using the Share buttons above.

Here's the usual Monday morning collection:

Leno: Do you believe we're fighting three wars now? Can you imagine how many it would be if President Obama hadn't won the Nobel Peace Prize?

Letterman: Let’s see, we’ve got a war going in Iraq. And a war going in Afghanistan. Now a war in Libya. My God, you need brackets to track this stuff.

Letterman: Pentagon says we’ll be out of Libya in a couple of weeks. That’s good enough for me. Let me translate that for you: 10-year quagmire.

Leno: The Pentagon says we have a definite end date for the Libya war. Do you believe that? We still have troops in Germany and that’s, what, 65 years?

Leno: The Pentagon says that U.S. military involvement in Libya is limited with a defined end date. Yeah, it'll end when gas drops below $3 a gallon.

Conan: The first day of airstrikes against Libya cost more than $100 million. To put it....

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On defense again, Obama claims 'important progress' in Libya war

anti Libya War Sign in Sri Lanka
Obama claimed "important progress" in the Libyan war early this morning.

In his taped weekly remarks, embargoed until one minute ago, the president claimed that Moammar Kadafi's troops have been pushed back from Benghazi and thousands of people have not been slaughtered as feared, thanks to the no-fly zone imposed over much of Libya by U.S. and allied planes for the past week. The full remarks and the Republicans' weekly response are available here.

Showing some sensitivity to considerable criticism that he has left many Americans confused by the ill-defined mission there and by abundant fears that the Democrat had appointed himself international marshal against brutal dictators worldwide, Obama waited only four sentences to note: "The United States should not — and cannot — intervene every time there’s a crisis somewhere in the world."

These remarks, the president's first in public on Libya since his long South American trip, could contradict what he said earlier this week when....

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Ex-Illinois state senator changes mind on U.S. government causing Middle Eastern regime change

President Obama encounters a locked door barring him from his office 3-23-11With President Obama locked out of his own White House (see photo on right and video below), Jay Carney stepped up and issued the latest in a series of official denunciations Thursday of a Middle Eastern dictator doing deadly things to demonstrators.

Such warnings about dictators behaving badly have been the political precursor this winter to even more serious American pronouncements and foreign trips by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who's off again this weekend.

First Tunisia, then Egypt have been warned by this White House under what is becoming known as the Obama Doctrine.

The emerging Obama Doctrine can be roughly described as being caught off-guard by foreign events, issuing numerous rhetorical warnings that sound swell and waiting for somebody else to do something because the president's too busy calling on someone to do something about the quality of American education, which has polled better than foreign forays.

Coming days after Syrian government agents began killing demonstrators there, is Carney's....

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In Brazil, Obama orders attack in Libya: 'Actions have consequences'

Obama toasts Brazilian president Dilma rousseff Saturday during US attacks on Libya 3-19-11


President Obama's remarks in Brasilia on attack in Libya, as provided by the White House

THE PRESIDENT:  Good afternoon, everybody. Today I authorized the armed forces of the United States to begin a limited military action in Libya in support of an international effort to protect Libyan civilians. That action has now begun.

In this effort, the United States is acting with a broad coalition that is committed to enforcing United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973, which calls for the protection of the Libyan people.

USS Barry fires Tomahawk missile at Libya 3-19-11 That coalition met in Paris today to send a unified message, and it brings together many of our European and Arab partners.

This is not an outcome that the United States or any of our partners sought. Even yesterday, the international community offered Muammar Qaddafi the opportunity to pursue an immediate cease-fire, one that stopped the violence against civilians and the advances of Qaddafi’s forces.

But despite the hollow words of his government, he has ignored that opportunity.  His attacks on his own people have continued. His forces have been on the move. And the danger faced by the people of Libya has grown.

I am deeply aware of the risks of any military action, no matter what limits we place on it. I want the American people to know that the use of force is not our first choice and it’s not a choice that I make lightly.

But we cannot stand idly by when a tyrant tells his people that there will be no mercy, and his forces step up their assaults on cities like Benghazi and Misurata, where innocent men and women face brutality and death at the hands of their own government.

So we must be clear: Actions have consequences, and the writ of the international community must be enforced. That is the cause of this coalition. 

As a part of this effort, the United States will contribute our unique capabilities at the front end of the mission to protect Libyan civilians, and enable the enforcement of a no-fly zone that will be led by our international partners. And as I said yesterday, we will not -- I repeat -- we will not deploy any U.S. troops on the ground.

As commander-in-chief, I have great confidence in the men and women of our military who will carry out this mission. They carry with them the respect of a grateful nation. 

I'm also proud that we are acting as part of a coalition that includes close allies and partners who are prepared to meet their responsibility to protect the people of Libya and uphold the mandate of the international community. 

I've acted after consulting with my national security team, and Republican and Democratic leaders of Congress. And in the coming hours and days, my administration will keep the American people fully informed. But make no mistake: Today we are part of a broad coalition. We are answering the calls of a threatened people. And we are acting in the interests of the United States and the world. Thank you very much.    ####

Photo: Roberto Stuckert Filho / EPA (Obama toasts Brazil President Dilma Rousseff Saturday); United States Navy (USS Barry fires one of 112 Tomahawk missiles at Libya, March 19).

Obama news conference registers 3.7: Japan's disaster is sad, now on gas prices (and my poll numbers)

Barack Obama News Conference 3-11-11

President Obama called a news conference Friday. Yes, the weekend was nigh, and few people beyond the media were listening.

But that was his target audience because he looks to be in a tidal wave of political trouble and needs a quick reset in time for the Sunday morning talk shows. (Full transcript below.)

The Real Good Talker has lost control of the political narrative in the nation's capital, which is very hard for an incumbent president to do.

He hasn't heard from proactive European allies what the U.S. will do about the decaying Libya situation. He had his candid director of national intelligence answer a congressional question honestly (the Libyan ruler with planes and more weapons is likely to prevail over the rebel rabble of the chosen one's chosen side), which appeared to go against the White House cheering section.

Obama's delegated Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to talk next week with ...

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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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