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A year after bin Laden’s death

Minimize domestic political exploitation

By Walt Braun

It matters a lot to President Barack Obama that he was president when U.S. SEALs killed Osama bin Laden. We hope it matters for the right reason.

Certainly the president deserves credit for making the kind of decision Americans expect their presidents to make.

The day the iconic leader was killed was a good day for the United States. Americans had waited a decade for the news, and when we learned of the daring raid during which no SEALs were lost, Americans weren’t just jubilant. We also were proud and maybe a little relieved that our nation — certainly our military — is still capable of such feats.

On this first anniversary of bin Laden’s death, it’s worth remembering that despite the fact that the president made the decision — a weighty one, to be sure — the SEALS deserve the greater credit for the act.

We hope the president doesn’t overplay his hand in the coming months as the man who brought bin Laden down. Americans will give him credit, though they’ll be more likely to begrudge it if they sense he’s using bin Laden’s death to win votes.

There is no reason to doubt, for example, that had President George W. Bush been in the same situation, he would have given the order to strike. We’d also like to believe that Mitt Romney would have as well. Bin Laden wasn’t just the president’s enemy, he was America’s enemy.

By the same token, Mr. Romney and the rest of President Obama’s political adversaries ought to be careful in the months to come to resist the urge to dismiss the president’s role in the operation.

In the meantime, as Homeland Security officials have pointed out, this anniversary doubles as an occasion to remember that al-Qaida, its affiliates and the lone operators who consider it their mission to do al-Qaida’s business remain threats.

It is hard to imagine that individuals could carry explosives inside their bodies as well as strapped to their chests for the purpose of killing as many people as possible in the name of terror. Then again, individuals evil or brainwashed enough to fly commercial airliners into buildings or attach explosives to tennis shoes and underwear were once unimaginable.

They’re all part of our environment now. Fortunately, however, Osama bin Laden is not.

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