If you saw the White House Correspondents’ Dinner last Saturday evening, you may have noticed the president’s demeanor. He appeared calm and collected and ready to have a great time. His jokes were well timed and he laughed at himself as well as others. Yet, underneath the cool, calm demeanor, the President’s day had included giving the go ahead to capture or kill Osama bin Laden.
Presidents are different from you and me. Certainly Barack Obama is.
On Saturday night, he was joking, laughing, and chitchatting at the head table of the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner. Dapper in his tux, he looked like he didn’t have a care in the world. On Sunday morning he slipped away to Andrews Air Force Base for his regular golf foursome. The round was abbreviated to nine holes by chilly, rainy weather, but that didn’t stop him from practicing drives and spending four hours and 22 minutes outside the White House grounds.
Gallery: Osama Bin Laden’s Death: The World Reacts
When he returned to the West Wing at 2:04 p.m., he and his national-security team put the finishing touches on the secret mission to take out Osama bin Laden. By 3 p.m. the helicopters were in the air. But one would never have suspected, from outward appearances, that Obama was preparing to roll the dice on a risky military operation half a world away that would define—and maybe even destroy—his entire presidency.
On Monday, as the international community was absorbing the news that the planet’s most-wanted terrorist had just been terminated with extreme prejudice, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney tried to explain Obama’s uncanny, one might say eerie, ability to green-light the most momentous mission of his presidency while touring tornado devastation in Alabama, traveling to Cape Canaveral for an abortive space shuttle launch, delivering a commencement speech at Miami Dade College, skewering Donald Trump at the correspondents’ dinner and playing a friendly golf game with aides. “Compartmentalization,” Carney summed up.
C-SPAN political editor Steven Scully, who (as a member of the WHCA board) schmoozed with the president at cocktails and dinner at the Washington Hilton on the eve of the operation, marveled at Obama’s sang-froid.