Obama’s Bet

I always knew that Obama was a gambling man. I respect people who make bets for a living. Not maniacs in search of quick riches, not self-important high-rollers hell-bend on proving something to those at the table, not drifters thinking that today is their lucky day, attributing a small victory to their wits. No. I mean gambling men – the ones who make calculated bets when opportunity calls for it and sit quiet when it doesn’t.

What a stunning high-stakes poker we have witnessed on Sunday! And it wasn’t chips Obama was playing with. For those who don’t make bets for a living, let me describe to you what one feels when putting on a position or putting chips on the table. After you weighed all of the evidence and calculated all the odds you pull the trigger and step into the unknown. At that moment you let it go – the time to worry ends the moment you put chips on the table. Obama is proving to be a master at the art of stepping into the unknown – from the moment of announcing his candidacy to Sunday’s events. Please don’t confuse this with rushing to take the position based on the way you imagine or desire things to be – a classic Republican trait. The chances of the man hiding in the compound being Bin Laden were estimated by experts to be in the 60-80%. Such chance of success calls for a huge bet in poker or a massive position in a security. However, in this particular juncture the chance of this being Bin Laden had to be taken together with the logistical considerations: it’s a sovereign country, bombing it will be counterproductive, there’s hundreds of other logistical nuances to consider and everything can go wrong. When you take all of the above into considerations, the chances of success are minimized precipitously. Now let’s imagine for a moment if the operation has gone wrong, if it wasn’t Bin Laden hiding there or if there were massive US and civilian casualties in addition to diplomatic scandal for US forces crossing unauthorized into Pakistan. Think of the ramifications for Obama, already weakened by economic problems and distracted by numerous clowns that demand their non-issues to be addressed in the most serious manner. Think for a moment what he was risking, what was at stake for him, his Presidency, his credibility. This was a bet of his life! If I was a Republican I would seriously considered taking the other side of this bet. Speaking in Wall Street lingo it was a cheap option for the country (we as a nation would have survived the loss of life and the damaged relationship with Pakistan, Obama would not) and an expensive one for Obama albeit with an enormous payoff. I can’t refuse myself the pleasure of extrapolating the events to Republican actions: Bush with his Iraq war has made a safe bet for himself and an expensive one for the country. He was also quick to take the credit where none was due.

This is the kind of victory that would have the Right salivating if it was their guy. Short of the real deal, fair and square military success to show for the last 10 years that is as straightforward as the one we witnesses on Sunday, the right nonetheless was fond of putting on a show for made up victories. Obama outplayed them in their game in the most skillful and spectacular fashion while sparing us the show of himself in the military fatigues landing on the aircraft carrier, but rather releasing (calculatedly, I’m sure, but that’s part of the game) the picture of him and his staff watching the operation unravel with the genuinely grim expression on their faces. He was lost in the moment, he didn’t care to pose for the camera and look presidential. Losing oneself in an activity or action is a sign of mastery. He’s the guy who does his job and is immersed in the task at hand. This is pure substance vs the Republicans Rovian preoccupation with appearance, image, looking tough, innuendoes and smoke and mirrors. There’s only one activity that I can think of for Bush losing himself in– cutting brush. Bush, like any generic Republican (please prove me wrong with examples!)  was more worried about looking presidential than being presidential. It’s a trait of a bad poker player – caring more about not looking like a sucker than about getting the results. This preoccupation with image draws them into making bets they shouldn’t be making.

Now, the task of the propagandists on the right will be much tougher. It will be harder to claim that he’s a Muslim who is weak on defense at best and in cahoots with the terrorists at worst and doesn’t care about the country. And in the meantime I’ll be anticipating the confirmation of my theory that political spectrum is a circle, not a line, watching our own right-wing nuts on one side and Muslim extremists around the world on the other wallowing together in conspiracy theories questioning Bin Laden’s death.

A job well done, Mr. President!


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