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Obama Thanks Team That Killed Bin Laden

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Obama Thanks Team That Killed Bin Laden

Obama Thanks Team That Killed Bin Laden

Obama Thanks Team That Killed Bin Laden

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  • Transcript

President Obama visited Fort Campbell, Ky., Friday to personally thank members of the team that found and killed Osama bin Laden earlier this week. But he first flew to Indianapolis to talk about clean energy, and the day's mostly good news on job creation in April. Melissa Block talks to NPR's Ari Shapiro for more.

MELISSA BLOCK, Host:

And, Ari, why the event in Indianapolis today?

ARI SHAPIRO: Well, the president knows that when when Osama bin Laden is off the country's newspapers' front pages, the economy and jobs and high gas prices will be back on the front pages. And he wants to send the message that even while this news breaks about Osama Bin Laden the country is focused on foreign affairs, he's also not taking his eye off the economy.

SHAPIRO: 268,000 new jobs created in the private sector in April. He said that's great progress but the country needs to do more and he repeated his pitch for creating jobs in the clean-energy sector to get the American economy back on its feet.

BLOCK: And political overtones to that visit?

SHAPIRO: This is a state that President Obama won in 2008 by just about 30,000 votes. So it was not a political event per se, but when you visit a swing state while your re-election campaign is underway there's always a political aspect to it.

BLOCK: And then the president was on to Fort Campbell, Kentucky. He met first in private with members of the team that conducted the raid on Osama bin Laden's compound, and then spoke publicly. What was his message to troops?

SHAPIRO: And then he defended his decision to send these troops - many of whom have just returned from Afghanistan - to send them to war in the first place and not to begin withdrawing troops any sooner than he had originally planned, even now that Osama bin Laden is dead. Here's some of what he said.

SHAPIRO: And most of all, we're making progress in our major goal, our central goal in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and that is disrupting and dismantling, and we are going to ultimately defeat al- Qaida.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

SHAPIRO: We have cut off the head (unintelligible).

BLOCK: Ari, there was a very moving moment when the president described a letter he had received this week from a girl named Payton Wall who was four years old on 9/11. Her father was trapped in the World Trade Center on that day and called home. Let's take a listen.

SHAPIRO: Payton remembers watching her mom sobbing as she spoke to her husband, and then passed the phone to Payton. And in words that were hard to hear but what she's never forgotten, she said he said to her: I love you, Payton. And I will always be watching over you.

SHAPIRO: It was a very emotional moment here in the hangar in Kentucky. And in a way, it book-ended this story, where yesterday Payton stood with President Obama at ground zero as he laid a wreath there, and today the Special Forces, who conducted the raid, sort of bracketed the tragedy that happened 10 years ago. And the conclusion of that chapter that came with Osama bin Laden's death.

BLOCK: And what have those troops told you as you spoke with them today in Fort Campbell?

SHAPIRO: You know, I spoke with a couple of soldiers who had just come home from Afghanistan a week ago, and they have mixed feelings. Obviously, everybody is happy that Osama bin Laden is dead, but one young man I spoke with said: He's dead. Mission accomplished. Time to bring the troops home and focus on domestic problems. The other one said: We've started something that we have to see through to the end. And our job isn't done yet.

Y: What was the mood like on Saturday night? They both said: We have just come home from Afghanistan and we were not about to leave our wives to go see what the mood on the rest of the Army base. I was with my wife. I was not about to leave her to see what the atmosphere was like on the base.

BLOCK: OK, NPR's Ari Shapiro, traveling with President Obama. Thank you so much.

SHAPIRO: You're welcome.

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