Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Obama Plays The Republican "Macho" Game

As Peter Bergen reported in the Sunday Times, President Obama is "one of the most militarily aggressive American leaders in decades."
Mr. Obama decimated Al Qaeda’s leadership. He overthrew the Libyan dictator. He ramped up drone attacks in Pakistan, waged effective covert wars in Yemen and Somalia and authorized a threefold increase in the number of American troops in Afghanistan. He became the first president to authorize the assassination of a United States citizen, Anwar al-Awlaki, who was born in New Mexico and played an operational role in Al Qaeda, and was killed in an American drone strike in Yemen. And, of course, Mr. Obama ordered and oversaw the Navy SEAL raid that killed Osama bin Laden.
Nevertheless, the "American public and chattering classes continue to regard the president as a thinker, not an actor; a negotiator, not a fighter."  So, I understand why Obama believes that he needs to tout his national security chops.  And the one-year anniversary of bin Laden's death provides the perfect opportunity to do so.  This may be good politics, but it is nonetheless distasteful.

As Digby puts it:
I get why the Democrats are doing it. I'm sure it's extremely satisfying to land those punches on the right wing blowhards after all the years of taunting and jeering about liberal cowardice. To be able to say they killed the evil mastermind where the swaggering codpiece failed is probably too much of a temptation for them to pass up. I get it.

But I hate it. I hated it when the Republicans did it and I hate it now. I don't believe the most powerful nation on earth should be running its democracy via schoolyard power plays. This is how we ended up stuck in Vietnam and how we have found ourselves floundering about in Afghanistan and elsewhere. It's why we can't stop spending trillions on useless weapons systems, why we "have" to continue to fund ridiculous programs like Star Wars and why everyone in the political establishment assumes that the only answer to budget problems is to cut the so-called "entitlements."

I know we live in a dangerous world. But this nation is extremely rich and extremely powerful and its most important assets are morality and mystique. I'm not going to argue about the morality of killing Osama bin laden, but it should be remembered that our unilateral wars,torture regimes and insistence on imperial prerogatives have already taken a toll on America's reputation for moral behavior.

As for mystique, well let's just say that schoolyard taunts and manly chest beating doesn't leave much to the imagination. I don't expect the macho worshiping conservatives to ever change this. It's fundamental to their very identity. I was hoping for something a little bit more sophisticated and a little bit more mature from the so-called "reality-based community."
That said, Romney's response -- that he or any other President, even Jimmy Carter for Gawd's sake, would have done the same thing with regard to bin Laden -- was not only asinine but contravenes earlier remarks that he wouldn't focus on hunting down bin Laden and that candidate Obama was misguided in asserting that he would unilaterally go into Pakistan to get bin Laden.

And hey, shouldn't the media be all over Romney for criticizing our foreign policy successes?  Shouldn't they be asking why he hates America? 

As Greg Sargent points out:
Back in 2004 and 2006, when Republicans were showcasing George W. Bush’s war-on-terror routine as central to their case for reelection, and Dems were responding by attacking Republicans for politicizing national security and pointing to Bush’s failures, Dems were widely described as the ones taking the big political risk then, too.

We were told again and again during the 2004 and 2006 campaigns that Dems risked coming across as not rooting for American military success; there was little discussion of any danger for Republicans in playing up Bush’s “war president” routine. Now the situation, roughly, is reversed — and this time we’re talking about the Obama administration’s successful targeting of America’s number one global arch-enemy — yet again it’s Dems who are seen to be playing with political fire here.
This remains the Republican's game.  As Sargent concludes, "there’s still a strong built-in presumption of political dominance for Republicans on national security, and [] any gains Dems have made on the issue are not deeply felt by Beltway establishment types."

For better or worse, that's not going to prevent Obama from trying.

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