Perhaps the most famous moment of the 2008 presidential campaign was when Hillary Clinton ran an ad showing sleeping kids safe and sound in their beds with a phone ringing in the background and implying that Barack Obama was not prepared to answer a phone call in the middle of the night detailing a national security crisis. A couple of weeks before the election and well after he had been selected as the vice presidential nominee, Joe Biden told a crowd of Democrats at a fundraiser that Obama would be tested by other international actors looking to take advantage of his inexperience within six months of taking office. Both of these episodes caused a furor given that Obama’s area of greatest weakness upon assuming the presidency was widely seen to be national security, and it contributed to his choosing Biden – who had chaired the Senate Foreign Relations Committee – as VP and retaining Bob Gates as his secretary of defense. These moves were meant in part to convey a sense of continuity and expertise on the part of the new administration and assure supporters and foreign adversaries alike that the Obama White House would be able to hold its own.
The news reported by David Igantius today that Osama Bin Laden ordered attack plans to be drawn up for an assault on Obama’s airplane any time he would be in Pakistan or Afghanistan is remarkable in this light because of Bin Laden’s rationale. His reasoning was that Biden would then become president, and that Biden was “totally unprepared” for the role and would embroil the U.S. in a crisis! Isn’t it remarkable what sitting in the Oval Office can do for your image?