When President Trump announced the death of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, I couldn’t help but recall Barack Obama’s announcement in May 2011 that Osama bin Laden had been killed—and was struck by the differences. Obama spent much of his announcement patting himself on the back and taking credit for various actions that lead up to the raid, Trump took a different approach.
The word “I” occurs six times in Trump’s prepared remarks—none of which had to do taking credit for something. In fact, five times were actually connected to his thanking people and countries that took part or assisted in the raid.
When Obama spoke about the death of bin Laden he mentioned himself several times, mostly to connect himself with the event:
“Tonight, I can report…”
“I directed Leon Panetta…”
“I was briefed on a possible lead to bin Laden…”
“I met repeatedly with my national security team…”
“I determined that we had enough intelligence…”
Later, he would use the death of bin Laden as a campaign talking point, despite the fact it eventually came out that it was from his CIA director Leon Panetta that Navy SEALS made the final decision to kill bin Laden, not Obama and that Obama was not in the Situation Room constantly monitoring the situation, but elsewhere playing cards, and wasn’t aware the mission was successful until after it was over.
Obama approached bin Laden’s death as a political event that would help him get reelected, and constructed a narrative that made him a central figure in the events leading up to and during the raid, even though he wasn’t so much. President Trump didn’t attempt to make al-Baghdadi’s death about him but as a victory for the United States.