Reelect Obama. Now.
“We don’t need to spike the football,” the President will say Sunday on 60 Minutes, speaking about his decision not to release a gruesome photo of shot-in-the-head bin Laden.
The wisdom he shows in that single sports metaphor is reason enough to push open the screen door right now and head to the polls to reelect him for four more big ones.
Let others call for a dance in the end zone to celebrate the bin Laden conquest; it’s better to score quietly and efficiently, drop the football and move on. It’s dignity that wins in the end, though it can take time for the adrenaline-junkie demographic to realize it.
Like so few politicians, Obama is a thinker. He knows that no mission can ever be fully accomplished in life, no matter how much you try to proclaim it over and done. Victories and defeats are part of the everyday equation, which is why conquests should be articulated with humility, with the whispered reverence that more naturally greets setbacks.
It’s a rare gift to have a president who knows the value in respect and projects it consistently; to have a leader with patience and steadiness in equal measure; to have a commander-in-chief who knows in his gut that spiking the metaphorical football after having someone shot in the head, even a head that belongs to a mass murderer, won’t win you anything, including—and maybe especially—the favor of a watching world.
Ridding the globe of the mass murderer did that job nicely already. No need to gloat.
As the President will also say Sunday, “We don’t trot out this stuff as trophies.”
If a photo were to be trotted out, it would be posted on websites and Facebook alongside dreary and jingoistic comments ad nauseam; it would be photoshopped every which way from Billy Sunday; kids would examine it ceaselessly. As sure as going home broke from a night at Sugar House, the released photo of the bloody, bullet-holed head would find its way into video games; it would become a macabre icon, one that would fill us with tangled emotions at every viewing; repulsion would be the overriding emotion, but repulsion over what? The mass-murderer? Or ourselves?
Despite the President’s well-known love for ball sports, the sporting metaphor that seems to increasingly fit him best is that of the long-distance runner. He has examined the field and concluded the distance is great, that to win you can neither be too high or low; that despite the ever-quickening news cycle, around every curve there’s another long stretch. You need to pace.
And as he runs, quietly and surely, the thoughtless sprinters fall by the wayside: the conspiratorial talk show host who called him a racist, the increasingly irrelevant nutball from Alaska, the flashy New York real-estate titan who huffed and puffed himself into instant crackpot status. There will be other sprinters, and some of them will no doubt keep calling for pictures of the shot-in-the-head mass murderer. But eventually they’ll fade into the shadow he casts, too.
Tim Whitaker (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the executive director of Mighty Writers, a nonprofit program that inspires city kids to write.