President Obama this week executed the finest feat of his presidency and he owes that success to the “Birthers” who dogged him so long to prove that he was born in America.
For the first time — perhaps in his entire life — Mr. Obama was forced outside his sanctuary of soft rhetoric, gauzy catchphrases and unmeasurable promises.
He was forced onto a battlefield where men would die, justice would prevail or perish, and his own presidency would be defined.
It is a hard place where only accomplishments count. There are no teleprompters. None of this leg-tingling pretty talk or budgetary witchcraft he is famous for could do what had to be done in Abbottabad, Pakistan.
Nor could he once again rely upon history, the accident of his birth or his inherited genes to pave the way for him. His wide smile and legendary charm that left so many voters swooning two years ago only would have undermined a grave effort such as this.
So, he gave the orders to kill one of the world’s greatest monsters.
But — and this was Mr. Obama’s sterling moment — he didn’t just order Osama bin Laden killed and left dead under a pile of dusty rubble far away. He raised the risks a hundredfold and sent our best trained killers to break into bin Laden’s den and kill him up close.
That is because Mr. Obama didn’t just want to kill the bearded mass murderer with a trust fund. He also wanted hard, tangible proof of it.
He wanted the monster’s head on a pike and brought to him. Mr. Obama wanted bin Laden’s wounds probed, pictures taken and the death blood drained from his body before dumping it into the sea.
How quintessentially American. Suddenly, Mr. Obama is a frontiersman, an Old West sheriff, letting ‘em hang high.
It is as if after all this time, Mr. Obama has become some kind of Birther, deeply suspicious of something foreign, something that sounds too good to be true.
This is not to say that Mr. Obama deserves all the credit for commanding this spectacular victory. None of it could have happened without former President George W. Bush and so many of his very policies for which he is so scornfully ridiculed by Mr. Obama and others. Mr. Obama has been stingy with that credit.
And it becomes clearer with each passing hour that some of Mr. Obama’s priorities — such as closing Gitmo — actually would have undermined this effort to exact precise judgment on bin Laden.
But, in the end, when faced with the toughest decision, Mr. Obama made the brave choice that included terrible risks. It was the right, thoroughly American decision. Not tidy, even a bit reckless, but the right one.
Because in America, nothing is more valuable than justice and the unending, sleepless pursuit of it.
The only thing nearly so valuable as justice, is bloody proof of it — if you are willing to show it to us.
• Charlie Hurt’s column appears Wednesdays. He can be reached at email@example.com.