Update: Here’s the speech:
Turn on the TV news; President Obama has called a Sunday night press conference to make what is described as a major national security statement. John King on CNN just said, following speculation from several other sources, that the announcement will be that Osama Bin Laden is dead and that the U.S. is “certain” that it has the body.
It’s very rare for Presidents to call press conferences on Sunday night. So when the announcement was made (it was originally announced for 10:30, then pushed back) everyone knew that this had to be big, but the subject was not leaked until a few minutes later. So until King came onto CNN with the official news, the CNN people seemed a little lost, standing around and saying only that they couldn’t say anything. Wolf Blitzer even announced that his sources wanted to commend the channel for not engaging in speculation. Ed Henry told us repeatedly that reporters had been told to watch for something big.
Over on other channels I’ve heard some commentators were reduced to reading back speculation from Twitter, since that’s where the news started to break first. It seems like some people get out of top-security briefings from the President and then leak it immediately, knowing it’ll be all over Twitter. I’m not judging them for that, just wondering if I’d have the nerve to leak something, even knowing the people who briefed you don’t really care if it gets out.
As I continue to write, Obama’s statement has not yet begun, so I’ll just say this: people are already saying that Obama won re-election with this news. Let’s not go crazy. That’s what people (some of the same people, literally) were saying about George H.W. Bush in 1991. Maybe this news makes it clearer that a Donald Trump is not going to beat Obama. But if the Republicans come up with their own Clinton…
11:02 and the speech has been delayed once more. Poor Wolf Blitzer is looking a little wild-eyed. He’s like a man who has been told to stall for time and has totally run out of stories. Which he has.
Now details finally start to trickle in: He was killed by “U.S. assets” in a mansion outside
Islamabad. Update: It was actually the nearby Abbotabad, An announcement that raises many issues about the U.S.’s relationship with Pakistan, or rather re-raises them, since they’re not new issues.
With these details in, they have to fill more time by bringing commentators on to speculate on what this one sentence worth of details might mean. Or might not mean.
Flipping around the channels, which have mostly cut in with special news reports, one thing stands out above all: this is a great time to see archival Bin Laden footage.
As there are finally rumours that Obama might come and talk, an hour late, a common news-coverage strategy now is to focus on the celebrations outside the White House, where people have gathered after hearing the news. Al-Jazeera English also shows an advantage in its focus on the Middle East, simply because they focus on what this means for, well, the Middle East – they’re speculating as heavily as the U.S. networks, but at least they’re the only English-language network speculating on some of these things.
11:35, here’s Obama. “The United States has conducted an operation that has killed Osama Bin Laden.” He follows by reminding us in great detail of what happened on 9/11.
Goes on to explain that last August he got a lead on Bin Laden hiding in Pakistan, and that “last week I determined we had enough intelligence to take action.” Today, the Americans took actions against Bin Laden’s compound. After a firefight, they killed Bin Laden and took custody of his body.
“His death does not mark the end of our effort.” Continues that terrorism is not over.
Emphasizes that the U.S. is not at war with Islam and reminds his listeners that President George W. Bush also emphasized that the U.S. was not at war with Islam and that Bin Laden “was not a Muslim leader.”
Asks the U.S. to revive the “sense of unity” that prevailed after 9/11. (Good luck with that.)
…The speech is over; the embedding of the Whitehouse.gov feed didn’t work, but I’ll put up a link to the speech when I have it.
For a Canadian connection, Harper will be commenting on it, of course. Here’s the thing: I doubt this will have any effect on the the election. But if the Tories do better tomorrow than currently projected, I figure there will be a lot of speculation that some amorphous national-security effect won them some extra seats. It’s the sort of thing that can never be proven, which is why it’s absolutely made for speculation. Update: Harper’s statement proclaims the importance of the Afghan mission and Canada’s “sober satisfaction” (a good choice of term) at the news.
For light entertainment, there’s always Fox News, where their chyron department made another one of its Freudian slips, and so did their one-man Geraldo department: