One political fact stands out from all the others as the nation marked the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of 9/11. President Obama has achieved something that many of his critics didn't believe possible: He has made the fight against terrorism a signature issue that is a positive factor in his bid for re-election.
Republicans have used the weak-on-national-security argument against Democrats for many years, but Obama turned this claim on its ear when he ordered the mission that ended in the killing of terrorist leader Osama bin laden. It was a goal that his predecessor, George W. Bush, had sought to achieve for seven years but could not accomplish. Obama did it in less than three years.
This has, in effect, immunized Obama from the weak-on-defense argument with many voters, according to pollsters and strategists of both major parties.The latest Washington Post/ABC News Poll, published last week, found that 62 percent of Americans approve of the job Obama has done in fighting terrorism. Among those approving are nearly 60 percent of independent voters and 40 percent of Republicans.
And Republican presidential candidates are giving him credit on at least this issue. Texas Gov. Rick Perry said in last week's GOP debate that Obama was right when he "maintained the chase" to capture or kill bin Laden. "I tip my hat to him," Perry said.
Yet Obama still has a big political problem. That same poll found that Obama's overall approval rating is 43 percent, a new low, with only one-third of voters approving of his handling of the economy, which is the top issue.
The unavoidable conclusion is that, unfortunately for President Obama, at the moment when he is doing well on national security issues, they have faded in importance with the country.