In ascending order of significance:
--The breathtaking operation that took down Osama bin Laden represents a victory not only for the country at-large and for President Obama but for proponents of American unilateralism. The president didn't wait for U.N. approval, nor did he consult the Pakistanis before taking down the twenty-first century's greatest mass murderer. That alone is gratifying.
--Predictably, the president now hopes to capitalize on a resurgent "national unity." He said as much in his Sunday speech and again the next day. To this the loyal opposition might respond with something like the following: "Mr. President, when you make a decision that rids the world of a monster, covers your administration and your country in glory, and secures your personal fame for all time, we will support you. When you and your allies in Congress attempt to force upon us unconstitutional legislation, however, we will resist you. This will never change."
--Meanwhile, President Obama is entitled to some well-earned basking in what promises to be an extended afterglow. Whether that glow extends all the way to November 2012 remains to be seen and, in any case, is beside the point. As I recently told my undergraduates, fifty years from today their grandchildren will not read a single speech from President William Jefferson Clinton, nor will they devote any serious study to any aspect of that lurid and inconsequential administration. The same cannot be said of President Obama, whose tenure, prior to Sunday's bombshell, already ranked among the most significant in recent U.S. history.
--Finally, there is the remarkable photo from the White House situation room. How interesting it would have been to be able to access the president's thoughts as that elite group of Navy SEALs, with exquisite execution, carried out one of the most dangerous missions imaginable. If President Obama allowed himself even a moment of reflection, then he must have marveled at the fact that men such as these, capable of such astonishing feats of heroism, actually exist in the world. It's humbling, to be sure. Of all the feelings conjured and expressed over the past few days, one hopes that this awe-inspired sense of humility will endure the longest.