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In the coming days, President Donald Trump is likely to continue making direct comparisons between the death of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and the killing of Osama bin Laden eight years ago. After all, Trump’s presidency seems, in large part, to be dictated by either undoing or trying to outdo what President Barack Obama accomplished.

When Trump announced Baghdadi’s death on Sunday morning, he risked diminishing the significance of the victory by engaging in his classic hyperbole. “This is the biggest one perhaps that we’ve ever captured,” Trump said before later reiterating, “This is the biggest there is. This is the worst ever. Osama bin Laden was very big, but Osama bin Laden became big with the World Trade Center,” going on to point out that Baghdadi said he had built “a country.”
There are plenty of differences between the two successful operations, not the least of which is how each commander in chief communicated the victory to the American people. The contrast between Trump’s announcement and the address Obama delivered in 2011 illustrates the vast disparity between their characters and their communication styles.
If you recall, on the night President Obama announced the killing of Osama bin Laden, he framed the victory with the restraint and dignity befitting of American global leadership. There was no chest-beating, no boastfulness, and no intent to humiliate the adversary. In fact, when asked why he tried to keep the pictures of bin Laden’s dead body under wraps, Obama said, “That’s not who we are. We don’t trot out this stuff as trophies. We don’t need to spike the football.”
Trump, on the other hand, has done a self-congratulatory end-zone dance in the wake of Baghdadi’s death. Trump said, “He died like a dog. He died like a coward.” In describing Baghdadi’s last moments before he was cornered by US forces, Trump said the ISIS leader was “whimpering and crying and screaming all the way” — words he repeated multiple times throughout the subsequent news conference.
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