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Political commentary from Andrew Malcolm

Category: Security

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.

Late-night's best: What else the SEALs found in Osama bin Laden's compound

Don Rickles appears on a Dean Martin celebrity Roast

As The Ticket's 63,000-plus Twitter followers here and 6,700 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. Normally, we publish these on Monday mornings.

SNL: a number of new conspiracy theories are surfacing claiming that Osama Bin Laden is not really dead. Which means Barack Obama will go down in history as the first black person ever to have to prove that he killed someone.

Letterman: So in Bin Laden's compound the SEALs found medicine, old newspapers and, guess what, the complete collection of Dean Martin Roasts.

Letterman: So maybe you heard that chipper Katie Couric is leaving CBS News. She'll....

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Sunday shows: Cheney, Donilon, Daniels, Rice, Kerry

ABC's "This Week" with Christiane Amanpour: Condoleeza Rice, Pakistan Ambssador Husain Haqqani and Obama security advisor Tom Donilon, with Liz Cheney, Tom Ricks, George Will, Jake Tapper, Martha Raddatz, Lawrence Wright aDick Cheney as vice presidentnd Pierre Thomas.

Bloomberg's "Political Capital" with Al Hunt: Gov. Mitch Daniels (R-Ind.).

CBS' "Face the Nation" with Bob Schieffer: Donald Rumsfeld and Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.).

CNN Fareed Zakaria "GPS": Rice, Gen. Michael Hayden, Richard Haas, Haqqani and Jugnu Mohsin.

CNN's "State of the Union" with Candy Crowley: Nato Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Imd.), Anita Dunn, Tom Davis and Donilon.

Fox News Channel "Fox News Sunday" with Chris Wallace: Former Vice President Dick Cheney and Donilon, with Bill Kristol, Paul Gigot, Mara Liasson and Juan Williams.

NBC's "Meet the Press" with David Gregory: Rudy Giuliani, Michael Chertoff and Hayden, with Bob Woodward, Doris Kearns Goodwin and Mike Murphy.

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Photo: Office of the Vice President (Cheney)

Weekly remarks: GOP's Scott Brown hails Bin Laden death; Obama touts more clean energy

Capitol Hill as Budget Deal is announced 4-8-11

Weekly remarks by Sen. Scott Brown, as provided by Republican Party leadership

Hello, I’m Scott Brown, and I have the honor of representing Massachusetts in the United States Senate.

Last Sunday night, we heard President Obama deliver the message that Americans have been waiting for since September 11, 2001. It’s a very rare thing when so many people across the world observe the loss of life with something other than regret. But this man, the late Osama bin Laden, had chosen his fate long before in a life filled with cruelty. If he expected mercy when our forces found him, that was asking much more than he was ever known to give. 

This was a man who rejoiced in the suffering and death of others, who set in motion all the horror and grief of 9/11 and considered it just a start. He was a teacher of evil, and now, for him, the lesson is over. It ends not in the fulfillment of some fanatical vision, but in the depths of the Arabian Sea.  

None of this can compensate for the murder of bin Laden’s victims. Nor will it....

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You're not alone: Most Americans believe Pakistan was double-dealing on Osama bin Laden refuge

Osama bin Laden Compound in Pakistan 5-3-11

Some Pakistani officials have been expressing shock all week that the world's most wanted murderer was living in relative comfort right under their beards in a huge compound (see photo above) near a military academy just outside the country's capital.

An overwhelming majority of Americans just don't buy that line.

A new Rassmussen Reports poll out today finds that fully 84% of Americans believe it is at least somewhat likely that high-ranking Pakistani officials knew about the $1 million residence of the Al Qaeda founder where the Obama administration says a Navy SEAL team dropped in, captured and killed Osama bin Laden early Monday morning local time. Wreckage of a US blackhawk helicopter on the Osama bin Laden compound wall 5-2-11

On his continuing victory lap, President Obama met secretly with the entire assault team today at Fort Campbell, Ky. to thank them and award the special ops group the Presidential Unit Citation.

"We have cut off their head," declared a buoyant Obama, who says he is not releasing the terrorist leader's death photo because he doesn't want to appear to the world to be celebrating the man's death.

Obama spoke to an exuberant rally of some 2,300 other American troops.

Only 9% of the 1,000 adults surveyed say it's unlikely Pakistani leaders knew nothing. Even fewer (5%) view Pakistan as an ally in the war on terror, one-third of last summer's total.

More than one-in-four (26%) view Pakistan as an enemy while 61% see the nuclear-armed country as a frenemy, somewhere in between .

Seventyu-two percent thinks it's fine we attacked an alleged ally without consultation and only 8% think Obama should have sought Islamabad's permission.

 -- Andrew Malcolm

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Photos: AFP / Getty Images (Osama bin Laden's living compound that Pakistan officials overlooked); Mohammad Zubair / Associated Press (Wreckage of a crashed U.S. Blackhawk helicopter on the Bin Laden compound wall).

P.S. Turns out now, those photos of Obama giving his 'I caught Bin Laden' speech were faked

President Obama reenacting his Osama bin Laden is dead speech for photographers 5-1-11Could the Obama White House communications folks have found anything else to step in over the presentation this week of their boss and the dramatic recounting and re-recounting of the execution and really rapid remains disposal of Osama bin Laden?

It turns out now that all of the non-White House still photographs of the president's dramatic entrance down the hall into the East Room and the late Sunday evening speech itself were faked.

They were not taken during the actual event, which was photographed only by official White House photographer Pete Souza during the live TV broadcast.

The widely distributed press photographs were, in fact, shot during a reenactment of the entrance, the firm presidential strides down the carpeted hall and the speaking by the president right after the real event, as reported by our astute colleague James Oliphant.

These staged news photos were immediately flashed around the world for millions to see with varying captions about the president reading his statement for photographers, distinctions that may well have been lost in translations and publications.

It is a minor matter unless truth is a concern.

Which isn't always the case in politics. (Anyone remember the planted townhall questions flap during the early Democratic primary campaign between Obama and Hillary Clinton?)

The Obama crew is not the first to bar professional photographers from a White House event and then offer a pretend presentation for subsequent "coverage."

The concern of presidential handlers is a staging one. The jostling of competitive photographers and the clatter of two or three dozen unseen camera shutters going off at the slightest presidential movement could clutter the video presentation, distracting viewers' attention as welpresident Obama delivering his Osama bin Laden is dead Speech 5-1-11l as the main actor's concentration on his Teleprompter.

Yes, of course, Obama's guys wanted maximum coverage of his proud "I got him and you-know-who didn't" moment. And independent news organizations always prefer their own material over a White House handout.

But to use this arguably misleading photo gimmick around something as sensitive as killing the world's most wanted murderer in an era of bounteous conspiracy theories about the 9/11 events he engineered is naive at best, moronic at worst.

Wasn't this the same president who only a few days ago was finally forced after four years of stonewalling to release his longform birth certificate to snuff an enduring conspiracy theory about his real citizenship?

The constantly changing details of the SEALs' courageous raid on the Bin Laden compound -- who with or without a gun was shot where and when after she was used as a shield or not -- have been accumulating all week.

This is because in their haste and eagerness to positively present the important news, Obama aides didn't gather the facts accurately, missed some changing ones and/or didn't repeatedly qualify their accounts with explicit warnings.

Take these numerous inconsistencies and conflicting details. Add them to these faked photos. Mix in Americans' chronic civic cynicism and post-Kennedy assassination susceptibility to conspiracy consumption.

Then add Obama's subsequent decision, against the advice of his CIA director, to withhold any photographic proof of Bin Laden's death and burial at sea, ostensibly from concern over jihadist sensitivities.

And all of this more than allows, it invites years of possibly groundless speculation over the historic capture, which with better handling could have been celebrated as a clean victory for Americans (and, who knows, perhaps also the presidential reelection candidate).

Now the ensuing discoveries of further PR klutziness are even more distracting than camera shutter clatters to the White House's primary goal of highlighting what one senior advisor called the president's historic "gutsiness" in sending others in to get Bin Laden.

OK, now about these photos. Which one was actually taken during the speech? And which one is pretend? Click on each to see.

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Photos: Pablo Martinez Monsivais / Associated Press (reenacted); Pete Souza / White House.

Late-night's best: Living like that, why didn't Osama bin Laden just shoot himself?

new yorkers celebrate the demise of Osama bin laden 5-1-11

As The Ticket's 63,000-plus Twitter followers here and 6,700 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. Normally, we publish these on Monday mornings. We didn't make it this week.

Letterman: Well, did you enjoy the Osama bin Laden season finale?

Conan: Osama bin Laden's death interrupted Sunday night's "Celebrity Apprentice" with Donald Trump. Which begs the question: How do we kill Bin Laden again next Sunday?Donald Trump and wife Melania 5-2-11

Letterman: In the Osama bin Laden raid, the SEALs sent his image to a satellite facial-recognition system that said there was a 99.9% chance it was Bin Laden. Still, there's that .01% chance it was a ZZ Top guy.

Leno: President Obama says he won't release the Bin Laden death photos. So I guess we'll just have to wait for Donald Trump to force him to do that too.

Conan: The Obama White House has changed its mind and decided to release those Osama photos -- on a set of commemorative plates.

Conan: A bomb-sniffing German shepherd went with those SEALs to Bin Laden's. The dog says the mission was OK, but he was really hoping Bin Laden had a cat.

Conan: Osama bin Laden had $740 sewn into his clothes. Experts say his next plan was either to launch a major attack or rent a one-bedroom apartment in Chicago.

Leno: Reports say Bin Laden lived in that compound with nine women and 23 children. I'm surprised that wasn't a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Fallon: Microsoft is bringing back Clippy, the cartoon paperclip that popped up in Word documents. He's been hiding in an upscale Pakistan suburb.Clippy the annoying know it all paper clip from Microsoft

Leno: Steve Jobs is furious over people saying his iPhone and iPads have secret tracking devices. Jobs says he knows who those people are and where they live.

Fallon: New York state passes a new law that allows same-sex conjugal visits for prisoners. I'm no expert, but isn't that pretty much what prison is?

Leno: Did you see the wind damage at the St. Louis airport? Wow! And the air traffic controllers slept through the whole thing.

Leno: The U.S. announces it's sending its most powerful drones to Libya. But that seems like a long trip for Joe Biden.

Fallon: Libya's Col. Kadafi is reported still in high spirits, although his compound was completely destroyed. Most people would be devastated. But here's the thing -- he's insane.

Fallon: Kate Middleton did her own makeup for the wedding. So except for the castle, the jewels, the limos, the mansions, the servants and the butlers, she's just like us.

locked Detroit Lions Gate 4-11Fallon: Did you see the royal newlyweds kissing on the balcony? I was like, hey, guys, get a castle.

Letterman: At least Bin Laden lived to see the Royal Wedding.

Letterman: CBS has downgraded Katie Couric from perky to peppy. She's stepping down as news anchor. Insiders tell me she was involved in dog fighting.

Fallon: Donald Trump hasn't voted in primaries for 20-plus years. Or in simpler terms, Trump hasn't voted in primary elections in over three wives.

Leno: For a while there a federal judge ended the NFL lockout, possibly clearing the way for the 2011 football season. Detroit Lions fans say they will appeal the decision.

Conan: Toyota officials have announced the company will start integrating Microsoft technology into its vehicles. It's perfect for the person who wants a car that crashes every 10 minutes.


Late-night's best: Air Traffic controllers, NFL replacements and Donald Trump

Late-night's best: Obama, Osama, Oprah, Oh Biden!

Late-night's best: Obama's campaign, Yogi Bear, Glenn Beck and Kelly Ripa's waxing

Late-night's best: Hillary Clinton, Harry Houdini and Kenya on Obama's birth

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

Late-night's best: Obama's NCAA picks, life expectancy and Al Qaeda fashion

-- Andrew Malcolm

Obama walks into a bar with a parrot on his shoulder. The bartender asks, "Does he talk?" The parrot says, "Not without a Teleprompter." Monday mornings, the best of late-night. And no need to go out; just click here to follow The Ticket via Twitter alerts of each new Ticket item. Our Facebook Like page is over here. We're also available on Kindle now. Use the ReTweet buttons below to share this item with family and friends.

Photos: Mario Tama / Getty Images (New Yorkers celebrate Bin Laden's demise); Larry Busacca /Getty Images (Donald and Melania Trump); Paul Sancya / Associated Press.

The political effect of Obama's decision to withhold Bin Laden death photos over fear of foreign reaction

Osama bin laden housing Compound in Pakistan 5-3-11

President Obama, who recently expressed uncomprehending bemusement that a desire by some in the public to see his sealed birth certificate would endure and distract debate for four years, has decided to seal the post-mortem photos of the world's most wanted murderer, Osama bin Laden.

The president, who has seen the graphic photos, likened their once-promised release to spiking the football after a touchdown. In a taped interview with CBS News, which itself will not be released until network broadcast in four days, Obama reportedly said, "That's not who we are."an unidentified 9-11 victim falls to his death from the World Trade Center

The Democrat suggested the world should take his word that it really was Bin Laden who was fatally shot in an early morning SEAL raid on his comfortable living compound in Pakistan after a 10-year manhunt.

Bin Laden was the mastermind of numerous deadly terrorism assaults on Americans and others, including the bombing of the destroyer Cole and the 9/11 attacks that produced so many graphic images of the deaths of nearly 3,000 people.

Obama, who once bragged that his administration would be the most transparent in American history, said he had all the proof necessary to convince him it was the real Bin Laden who was shot in the chest and forehead after maybe or maybe not being given an opportunity to surrender in his bedroom early Monday morning Pakistan time.

"We don't think that a photograph in and of itself is going to make any difference," the chief executive is reported to say.

The presumed reason is fear of inflaming Islamic jihadists over their leader's violent demise and the hope that maybe perhaps they might relent in their so far relentless war on nonbelievers.

Obama, however, reveals an unusual priority in the interview: He says there is no doubt of Bin Laden's death among the Saudi's followers.

Who was concerned about that?

In the leaked interview portion, Obama does not mention the concerns of his own countrymen, who saw countless gruesome photographs of deaths on 9/11. Obama's profound primary concern seems to be to ameliorate reactions among a foreign audience of terror extremists. To minimize public criticism at home, Obama's team has shown the allegedly secret photos to members of Congress, presumably grownups.

Start the timers on how long until an alleged death photo appears somewhere.

The decision to withhold photographic proof was only the latest flipflop by the Democrat's administration in what has become a constantly changing story of the precise SEAL raid, and Bin Laden's demise and the disposal of his body, as detailed here earlier Wedne Leon Panetta, left, and Robert Gates 4-28-11 sday morning.

Late Tuesday Leon Panetta, the director of the CIA and future secretary of Defense, said he was sure the photos would ultimately be released.

However, in a less-than-shocking claim Wednesday, Obama said that now all of his subordinates agree with his decision to keep the photos secret.

Although he made no reference to consulting other governments, such as friendly but nervous Muslim regimes in the Middle East, Obama may also have sought and received advice from them to withhold the photos as inflammatory. But Obama does not wish to appear back home to be abiding by the secrecy suggestions of governments he's been so publicly and constantly lecturing about democracy and openness.

Obama also says that Bin Laden received the justice he deserved.

This Obama decision, like so many others, including his vow to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility is, of course, subject to impatient reversal over time.

Politically, it will certainly prove difficult for Obama to sustain at home, where critics have long suggested he's too often an apologist abroad for his own nation. Whatever Obama's real motives, his publicly expressed ones appear to put fears of adverse foreign reactions ahead of his countrymen's reactions over a thwarted desire for closure by seeing the ultimate modern villain dead after losing so many American lives to Bin Laden and his hench-persons.

If there was any doubt about the pent-up nature of these emotions, they were killed Sunday night when so many spontaneous jubilant public celebrations broke out in this country over Obama's announcement of Bin Laden's death.

These street demonstrations involving flag waving, cheering and group sings of the "Star-Spangled Banner" occurred, among other places, in front of the White House, in New York's Times Square and, most symbolically, at ground zero in Lower Manhattan.

As it happens, Obama will travel there Thursday as part of his Bin Laden victory lap, which will now most likely include the first of many explanations over a silly photograph he's decided to keep secret.

On the other hand, 552 days before the presidential election, if political critics are discussing a secret photo, they're not talking of unemployment or amazingly high gas prices.

Which can't be sealed by this president.


Osama bin Laden's death: Clarifying the Obama administration's cnoufison and missteaks

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

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 two 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.

Photos: The Bin Laden compound in Pakistan (credit: AFP / Getty Images); a 9/11 victim falling from the burning World Trade Center (credit: Associated Press); CIA Director Leon Panetta, left, and Defense Secretary Robert Gates. (credit: Carolyn Kaster / Associated Press)

Bin Laden's death and polls: Some fearful findings

While a Monday poll showed the slaying of Osama bin Laden had boosted President Obama's approval rating by a modest 9%, a new Gallup survey this morning produces some more disturbing findings.Osama bin Laden

The violent demise early Monday of Al Qaeda's founder, who masterminded the mass murders of 9/11, among other deadly incidents, prompted spontaneous late-night street celebrations in Washington and in New York, where the president will visit Ground Zero tomorrow.

A quick Pew/Washington Post poll that first day found 56% approved of the Democrat's job now, up from 47% in April. The same poll found 38% now disapprove of Obama's job, down from 45% last month.

An historic comparison by Public Opinion Strategies of presidential poll bumps after national security events predicts Obama's increased approval will be around 13% and last maybe 22 weeks, compared with George W. Bush's seven-week 15% jump after capturing Saddam Hussein.

However, a new Gallup/USA Today poll out this morning also finds that the death of that tall, haunting Saudi man has prompted more than 6 in 10 Americans to believe that a significant act of terrorism within the United States is very or somewhat likely in the next several weeks.

Seventeen percent believe such an attack is "very likely."

That 62% is the highest number fearing such an imminent attack in eight years, since the start of the Iraq war in 2003.

Additionally, fewer than 4 in 10 (39%) say Bin Laden's death makes them feel a lot more confident that the country can succeed in the ongoing war against Islamic terrorism. A third feels a little more confident about that.


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

-- Andrew Malcolm

Improve your own mental security: Click here 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: Al Jazeera

Osama bin Laden's death: Clarifying the Obama administration's cnofsuoin and missteaks

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

It's taken a couple of days to sort out the confusions and conflicting versions of Osama bin Laden's welcome demise early Monday at the hands of a gutsy president crouching on the floor and a couple dozen unidentified helpers with rapid-fire weapons, night-vision goggles and nerves of steel a half-world away; you know how it is in the chaos of battle and Chicago campaign politics.

Back in 2005, when rookie Sen. Barack Obama was just beginning to plan his $745-million 2007-08 presidential campaign, U.S. intelligence became aware of a $1-million housing compound under construction in Abbottabad, Pakistan, a city of 1 million about 60 miles outside the capital.

Using certain interrogation techniques on involuntary wartime guests, the CIA acquired the name of a high-level al Qaeda courier, who was eventually tracked toing and froing from said elaborate compound, which his invisible income would seem to put beyond his financial reach.

Last August, as Obama vainly campaigned to preserve his Democratic Party's....

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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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