Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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February 6, 2010

A SHIFTING APPRECIATION FOR DISSENT.... Newsweek's Jonathan Alter appeared on MSNBC's "Countdown" this week, and made a provocative comment that's worth considering in more detail.

Keith Olbermann noted that Republican attacks on President Obama's national security and counter-terrorism policies are both hypocritical and wrong. He asked Alter how the GOP can defend its own baseless rhetoric. Alter responded by considering the Republican criticism in a larger context.

"I think [Republicans are] in a place now where they just want to hurt Obama.

"And what they don't get -- I wish they would look into their souls a little bit -- is that if they convey over and over again that the president of the United States is weak, what does that do? It emboldens the terrorists, and I don't say that lightly.

"But think of terrorists overseas, or at home, who might be plotting an attack. If they think that the president is weak, which he is not. He's manifestly not. He's killed twice as many of them, not to put too fine a point on it, with these Predator [drones], as his predecessor did.

"He's not weak, if they continue to convey that he is weak, that gives serious help to the terrorists. So, I think the pressure should now be on these Republicans -- aren't you helping the terrorists by insisting against all evidence?"

Alter added that the onus is now on Republicans to consider whether they are "harming us" with their dishonest rhetoric.

Olbermann found this compelling. And if I'm being honest, at first blush, I had a gut-level appreciation for what Alter was arguing.

But it's probably worth pausing and taking a deep breath before going too far down this road.

This is going back a bit, but three years ago this month, Ed Koch wrote a column defending George W. Bush, insisting that criticism of the White House might undermine our security.

Democrats and some Republicans in Congress are seeking to humble, embarrass and, if they can, destroy the President and the prestige of his position as the Commander-in-Chief who is responsible for the safety of our military forces and the nation's defenses. By doing so, they are adding to the dangers that face our nation.

Right-wing blogs were delighted. Conservatives implored those mean liberals who "disparaged" the president to consider how inherently dangerous their criticism of the president might be.

Throughout the Bush/Cheney era, this was as common as the sunrise. Dissent was equated with disloyalty. Prominent conservatives would casually throw around words like "treason," "traitor," "fifth columnists," and "Tokyo Rose" comparisons. In his capacity as the White House press secretary, Ari Fleischer went so far as to warn Americans that they "need to watch what they say."

It wasn't complicated -- to be patriotic was to support the president in a time of war. "Don't you understand?" conservatives would ask Bush/Cheney detractors. "Al Qaeda can hear you. We can't appear divided in a time of crisis. We can't let the world think our Commander in Chief lacks Americans' support. We can't show weakness -- and you're helping our enemies."

That was the right's line, right up until Election Day 2008, at which point dissent became the principal responsibility of all decent American patriots. It's funny how that works out.

Which leads us back to Alter's on-air comments. As a liberal offended by senseless Republican attacks on President Obama, I can appreciate the appeal of his argument. Indeed, it's satisfying on a certain level to think the shoe should be on the other foot for a while.

"Oh yeah?" a voice in our head says to the right, "now it's your turn to have your patriotism questioned for having the audacity to criticize the president in a time of war. It's your turn to be told that terrorists will exploit your comments. It's your turn to explain why you're dividing America when we should be coming together with a sense of common purpose."

This is even more compelling when, as a purely factual matter, what liberals said about Bush was true, and what conservatives are saying about Obama is not.

But I nevertheless recommend caution. Conservatives were wrong when they to tried to stifle dissent, and they broke with American norms when they compared us to terrorist sympathizers because we disapproved of the president they embraced.

Dissent and debate is always healthy. As a factual matter, Republicans and their far-right allies really are trying to undermine American leadership during a crisis, but in our free society, they're allowed to do that.

I'm reluctant to tell anyone they're "emboldening terrorists" based on their political beliefs. That's just not how we're supposed to do things in this country, even if the right forgot this principle for seven years.

Steve Benen 11:15 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (52)

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good points, but there's one key difference: dissent out of principle vs. dissent out of political gamesmanship

we do need to be careful and there's nothing wrong with criticizing polices you don't agree with, but the Republicans have completely lost any sense of principle or intellectual consistency - I don't even think they believe most of what they're saying at this point, they just want to hurt Obama

Posted by: Charlie on February 6, 2010 at 11:22 AM | PERMALINK

Principle, not principal.

Posted by: steve s on February 6, 2010 at 11:23 AM | PERMALINK

How about those national security positions that Shelby is holding hostage, many of these people are critical in our defense.

Posted by: JS on February 6, 2010 at 11:24 AM | PERMALINK

I appreciate your efforts to be even-handed here, but there's a profound difference between the two criticisms.

The Republicans are now insisting -- repeatedly, and without qualification -- that Obama isn't capable of defending the country from an outside attack and that we're now vulnerable. That is, of course, a direct invitation to al Qaeda to strike.

The Democratic critics of Bush, meanwhile, never made that claim. Perhaps indirectly, by saying the war in Iraq diverted our attention from al Qaeda, but it was never a direct attack on the capabilities of the Bush administration to handle terrorism. What's more, we were told that speaking out against non-national security issues -- like Social Security privatization or tax cuts for the rich -- was something that was unpatriotic.

And in the end, while you want to be fair minded, I don't think they deserve the benefit of the doubt here.

Posted by: TR on February 6, 2010 at 11:27 AM | PERMALINK

they're welcome to say whatever they want: the question is why the democrats don't simply call them out as the thugs they are (and i don't mean political cleverness: i mean literally referring to the gop members as "right wing thugs" at every opportunity).

Posted by: howard on February 6, 2010 at 11:27 AM | PERMALINK

I think we could make a distinction between rhetoric designed to make Obama appear weak and actions that have the effect of actually making us weaker. I doubt Al Qaeda gives a damn about the former, but imagine what they think our inability to staff top positions in the TSA due to GOP obstructionism.

Posted by: KenS on February 6, 2010 at 11:29 AM | PERMALINK

This is probably too subtle a distinction to get across to the public at large, but there is a difference between arguments over policy differences and attacks aimed at destroying one's political opponents. I have to admit that there was a fair amount of viciousness in the attacks on Bush by the left, starting with questions of his legitimacy (following the Florida debacle). But at the core of the complaints the left had with Bush were policy differences: the big two in my mind were fiscal policies that piled on huge debt and mostly benefited the wealthiest, and the Iraq War that squandered lives, dollars and international good will.

Perhaps it's hard for me to put myself in the shoes of the Republicans, but it seems to me that their attacks on Obama are not, at heart, matters of policy disagreement. The belief in Obama's illegitimacy is at the core, and policy differences follow from that, rather than the other way around. Yes, Republicans are opposed to health care reform, and they disagree with the stimulus, but considering that Bush passed an expensive prescription drug plan without a lot of Republican opposition, and he initiated TARP without a lot of Republican opposition, it makes me think that if the same measures had been proposed by a John McCain, they would have gone along with it, rather than threatening insurrection.

Posted by: Daryl McCullough on February 6, 2010 at 11:39 AM | PERMALINK

I worry that Obama is emboldening terrorist and other enemies of this country by allowing the GOP to walk all over him. This makes him look like a wuss. Even supporters of Obama are concerned that he is too weak. And I continue to think that Obama's biggest mistake is that he didn't have a symbolic "don't fuck with me" slap-down moment early in his administration.

So I guess my take is different than Alter's. I don't blame the GOP as much as Obama, but I predict we will soon have a foreign policy crisis as some overseas asshole decides Obama doesn't have the balls to respond to a provocation.

Posted by: g. powell on February 6, 2010 at 11:43 AM | PERMALINK

Obstructionism for obstructionism's sake is hurting everybody. Take the Shelby Shakedown for example. If Republicans were acting as opposition parties have for two hundred years even in the minority Shelby would have the clout and tools needed to deal with the two projects he is trying to protect, but because the Republican leadership has made it plain that Republicans are not to break ranks under any circumstance Shelby's ability to cut a deal to save or replace the projects is limited to the Shelby Shakedown. Of course if Shelby gets his way 40 other Republican senators are going to try the same stunt. For that reason and that reason alone the Administration and the Senate Democrats have to stand up to Shelby. In the end the Shakedown will fail. Republican obstructionism is hurting Republicans as much as and probably more than it hurts the Democrats. Too bad the Republicans are following the lead of a handful of unelected talk show hosts.

Posted by: Ron Byers on February 6, 2010 at 11:49 AM | PERMALINK

I see no problem ...

with pointing out, preferably with video, how Republicans equated any criticism of The President During a Time of War® (a registered trademark of the Republican Party) with treason. Then replay their recent snipes at Obama. Keep doing it, for Repub after Repub.

The effect will be near-comic, and people will get the point that these bozos say one thing about their own guy and just the opposite when the Prez is from the opposing party.

It might even be productive to actually ASK some of these two-facers to explain. If nothing else, it would be good for a few more laughs.

Posted by: Zandru on February 6, 2010 at 11:53 AM | PERMALINK

Social Conservatives embolden terrorists simply by who they are.

Their bad example as a political force in this country gives encouragement to similar personalities everywhere.

Posted by: cld on February 6, 2010 at 11:53 AM | PERMALINK

g.powell, I have been watching Obama's foreign policy for a year. He is a lot tougher than Fox News would lead you to believe. I think the folks overseas (who don't watch Fox News) understand that if necessary, he will pull the trigger sometimes loudly and sometimes quietly, but he will pull the trigger.

Posted by: Ron Byers on February 6, 2010 at 11:54 AM | PERMALINK

In the context of a "war" against terrorists, there's a not unsubtle difference between criticizing a president for being a militaristic, simplistic dunderhead and criticizing a president for being "weak."

Posted by: Steve (not that one) on February 6, 2010 at 11:58 AM | PERMALINK

You're arguing in circles. You say, 'As a factual matter, Republicans and their far-right allies really are trying to undermine American leadership during a crisis, but in our free society, they're allowed to do that.'

Fine, but when we call them out on it you wimper, 'I'm reluctant to tell anyone they're "emboldening terrorists" based on their political beliefs.'

Who the hell is doing anything based on political beliefs? The repugs ARE emboldening terrorists by doing what you concede they're doing, 'trying to undermine American leadership during a crisis'

No wonder they roll over us. Our 'progressive' spokes-persons are loathe to use factual arguments because we were slandered when they lied to make this same argument against us.

Posted by: BillFromPA on February 6, 2010 at 11:58 AM | PERMALINK

In a nutshell, the question is, "When Republicans forget that 'criticizing the President in wartime' is tantamount to treason and criticize the President in wartime, should they be accused of hypocrisy, treason, or both?

Posted by: John on February 6, 2010 at 11:59 AM | PERMALINK

Zandru, there is no end to the possibilities of pointing out GOP hypocrisy. (1) Dissent=treason, (2) Filibusters are a threat to democracy. (3) Every Presidential appointee deserves an up or down vote. (4) The use of reconciliation to avoid the need for a filibuster-proof majority is completely legitimate. (5) A failed terrorist attempt doesn't count when considering whether the President has kept the county safe. (6) Trying terrorists in civilian court is completely appropriate. (7) Deficits don't matter. (8) It is inappropriate or unpatriotic to criticize the judgement of military leaders. (9) On issues such as gays in the military, the judgement of military leaders is what counts. (10) Politics must end at the water's edge.

Posted by: Daryl McCullough on February 6, 2010 at 12:02 PM | PERMALINK

Steve, you put your finger on the problem: the republicans lie. they lie all the time, nearly continuously, because they can't win a single policy argument, let alone a single election, by telling the truth about anything.

The GOP has been lying about where it stands for over 40 years. It's how they roll, and how they win. If they're not called on their lies and hypocrisy and made to pay for them, they'll keep right on doing it. why not? There's every incentive to keep on lying, since it brings them both power, and profit.

Objective truth is the enemy of the GOP, and has been for a very long time...and that makes them traitors..traitors to our country, and traitors to the truth. Criticism of the president has nothing to do with it: constant, egregious, self-aggrandizing, frankly dangerous lying does.

Posted by: LL on February 6, 2010 at 12:03 PM | PERMALINK

Zandru is spot on: Remember the 'good old days' of "You're either with us or you're against us"?

Missing blonds and car chases capture the viewer because of their immediacy and their simplicity. No nuance there- that comes later, during the trial and discovery, blah blah blah. By then the public has moved on to the next Bright and Shiny Thing.

The Dems need to keep those Bright and Shiny Things front and center, every day, all day. The public demands it. . .

Posted by: DAY on February 6, 2010 at 12:04 PM | PERMALINK

So what kind of a metric is "he's killed more than twice as many" with drones as his predecessor? How about civilians? How about undeclared war in Pakistan? How about no shame at all in automatically excluding Defense expenditure from any budget cuts? With that kind of behaviour it doesn't matter what Dems or Repubs say. Your actions speak volumes.

Posted by: jward23 on February 6, 2010 at 12:04 PM | PERMALINK

Think I agree with the general idea that it's a mistake to try to beat the Republicans at their own game, if this means matching them lie for lie, slander for slander, and tend to agree with this application of the principle. But I don't think that Democrats should avoid strong, indeed harsh words. Perhaps the question Democrats, liberals and progressives should ask themselves is what could we do, while remaining true to our principles, if we brought a portion of the passionate intensity with which the Republicans are full to the causes we believe in? I agree with Steve that we could do without the 'undermining national security' argument, but I think there is no reason not to say, and every reason to say, in response to these and other Republican falsehoods that they are flat out lies by people who are content to play games with national security to advance the interests of their wealthy sponsors at the expense of ordinary Americans, that Obama is doing a vastly better job on this front as on others, that the Republicans own record is a disgrace and so on.

There is something to a modified version of Barry Goldwater's slogan: moderation in the defense of elementary decency is no virtue.

Posted by: J on February 6, 2010 at 12:09 PM | PERMALINK

What do you mean you're not sure if you want to go down this road, Steve? Drive down this road in a Mac truck! These bastards run all over the president and this country with provable lies that aren't exposed near enough and you want to take a deep breath? Lead, follow or get out of the way, Steve....

Posted by: BigRenman on February 6, 2010 at 12:11 PM | PERMALINK

If Republicans are inspiring terrorists to strike, who might otherwise have chosen not to, and they walk into the steel trap of the Obama anti-terror machine... so much the better.

Posted by: Grumpy on February 6, 2010 at 12:11 PM | PERMALINK

Ohhh! Now I understand.

Obama's weak because he doesn't land on carrier decks in flight suits, or clear brush on a ranch from the cab of a pick-up truck because he's afraid of horses.

Maybe if he butches up his rhetoric by affecting a steeely eyed glare and growling really macho Hollywood one-liners like, "Bring'em on," or "Major league asshole," or "Big time," or "Go fuck yourself" Al Quaeda will get scared and leave Murikkka alone.

Maybe he should shoot one of his supporters in the face, then make them apologize. Even I have to admit that's gangsta!

Posted by: Winkandanod on February 6, 2010 at 12:11 PM | PERMALINK

winkandanod -- Here's a better idea: Perhaps Obama should target somebody like Richard Shelby or show some leadership in healthcare reform. The GOP walks all over him because he allows them to.

And if I was somebody like Kim Jong-Il or Ahmadinejad, I wouldn't be that impressed by seeing how Obama deals with the opposition at home. He looks weak and like a pushover.

Posted by: g. powell on February 6, 2010 at 12:23 PM | PERMALINK

g.powell, I agree that Obama should kick Republican ass and take names but not to impress Kim Jong-Il or Ahmadinejad. He should do it to impress his enemies closer to home, you know Roger Ailes and Ruppert Murdock.

What Dick Shelby is doing is nothing short of evil. It is also sickeningly shortsighted. I would start with Dick Shelby. How about threatening to move Huntsville to some Democratic state.

Posted by: Ron Byers on February 6, 2010 at 12:33 PM | PERMALINK

Ron Beyers -- Obama needs to impress the whole world -- the GOP as well as less than friendly states -- that there is a price for crossing him. The fact that he hasn't done that is a real problem.

And you aleady see the consequences in our relations with China. I'm sure the Chinese leadership has observed Obama and has concluded that they can push back harder on issues like climate change and revaluing the yuan.

Posted by: g. powell on February 6, 2010 at 12:43 PM | PERMALINK

Even-handedness emboldens al Qaeda terrorists and anti-American Republican filth.

It's even too late to drive down that road in a Mack truck; al Qaeda scum and the scum in the Republican Party have fully mined the road -- together. Both want the U.S. Government dead.

It's funny that these aliens in the Republican Party used to blame al Jazeera, for example, for carrying al Qaeda messaging.

Now, al Jazeera carries Republican Party messaging for the terrorists abroad who await the signal from their Republican Party brethren: Attack now. We have weakened President Obama and the U.S. Government from within as much as we can. The time is ripe. The population has been readied for our mutual goals.

When U.S. killer drones fly over Washington D.C. AND Pakistan, I'll know I'm protected from the enemies of this country.

Both al Qaeda and Republicans wear suspicious underpants.

Posted by: John Thullen on February 6, 2010 at 12:46 PM | PERMALINK

The point is not that they are "helping" the "terrorists", but that they do not care; the "terrorists" are merely a cardboard cutout that they use to inflame their faction. All politics is domestic; there is no such thing as foreign policy any more; the rest of the world only exists in allegories and fairy tales.

Any terrorist smart enough to worry about would know this and wouldn't spend any more time keeping up with Republican rhetoric than, say, I do.

Posted by: Frank Wilhoit on February 6, 2010 at 1:02 PM | PERMALINK

We are not trying "to stiffle dissent," Steve, as you yourself know. We are trying to get Republicans -- whose lies are not only enabling those who hate us by projecting a false image of a weak president, but paralyzing the government at home through fighting him (their president) by blocking everything he and the people who sent him want -- to tell the truth. That is quite different. Also, although we are fighting terrorist criminals, we have been thrust by lying Republicans into two, difficult wars. So we are also, literally, at war. To enable those who would fight us, whether they are criminals or actual governments, is wrong. Alter was right.

Posted by: SF on February 6, 2010 at 1:06 PM | PERMALINK

I kinda see what Steve is driving at; we sure did bitch and moan a lot when they did it to us. But, at the same time... It's very, very tempting to point out that, not only is the shoe on the other foot now, but that its fit is *one heck of a lot better*. So, Alter gave in to temptation; good for him.

Posted by: exlibra on February 6, 2010 at 1:14 PM | PERMALINK

Based on your finding that...

what liberals said about Bush was true, and what conservatives are saying about Obama is not.

...your conclusion "recommend(ing) caution", makes little or no sense.

If, regarding policy, the Rs are lying now & the Ds were not under bush then -- "That's just not how we're supposed to do things in this country", is conflating the D reaction to R BS, with the Rs otherworldly reaction to D critics of unlawful aggressive war and the R's ongoing nonsense over O's domestic initiative.

Posted by: cwolf on February 6, 2010 at 1:14 PM | PERMALINK

I enjoy your blog immensely but you may want to read this article "NEXT YEAR, IMPEACHMENT?" at

The Dems have gotta start pushing back and hard. Alan Grayson and Al Franken appear to be leading the way.

Posted by: Patrick Bjork on February 6, 2010 at 1:16 PM | PERMALINK

The difference being that Republicans have long spoken for the terrorists as is they were their PR agents, and they share a common social agenda.

Posted by: Grand Moff Texan on February 6, 2010 at 1:37 PM | PERMALINK

There is a difference here. The GOP theme is explicitly that Obama is weak and dropping our defenses to terrorism -- in other words, literally emboldening them. That is what Alter was referring to. The "don't undermine our leader" reaction to Dem arguments against Bush 1. applied to all criticism, including domestic policy and 2. insofar as there was criticism against anti-terror policy, the arguments were not that we were dropping our defenses.

Posted by: greengrey on February 6, 2010 at 1:43 PM | PERMALINK

I’d think it’s safe to assume that the terrorists themselves can tell whether or not Obama is weak. It’s not like they have no independent information to go on. Given the dramatic uptick in drone hits and the increased troops in Afghanistan, and the strikes in Yemen since Obama came to town, they’d be stupid to think he was a total pushover.

That said, do I care if Jonathan Alter takes some well-deserved punches at the Repubs? Hell, no. If fact, more please.

Posted by: sue on February 6, 2010 at 1:55 PM | PERMALINK


Alter's point is good, and the truth is it goes even deeper than this.

The multi-layered dissent is so damn appealing for several significant reasons:

It gives the dissenters a purpose, a lousy one, but one nonetheless. Everyone needs a purpose. This saying NO is beginning to feel like an existential antidote for some.

It gives the dissenters a sense of belonging.
We all want to belong. They just got a new
guy who is going to join their club and they
couldn't be happier.

It wins them temporary points from some angry constituents in their districts.

It makes them feel good. No joke. Like a drug.To say NO so loudly and so boldly is a feel good rush.

It makes them feel right. They feel vindicated, tough, like a high school bully.

It makes some of them feel even holier than thou, as though they are doing something special for their party and their country.

And some will rationalize they MUST say no, that God tells them this is wrong:Obama and his supporters MUST be stopped. They are socialist, they are creating debt for generations to come, they are not even citizens,
they are evil..

So for Obama to keep calling for an end to Partisan Politics, as he did yet again this am..

well, it's just so naive.

He still doesn't get it.

This is some serious shit both the Republicans and the Tea Party folks are now immersed in. And some so called "Democrats" as well.

The Insurance Industry and Wall Street as well.

Their all looking for their next fix. And it comes in the form of saying NO as loudly as they can. And grabbing everything they can as quickly as they can.

They don't give a damn about our country and they pray Obama fails.

It's time to realize this fully and stop pretending otherwise.

Not only can you hope they'll stop saying No, you can't hope they will want to or feel any need to.

They're all serious addicts now, and there is no rehab prepared for this level of destruction.

Posted by: Insanity on February 6, 2010 at 2:10 PM | PERMALINK

I doubt that terrorists plan their attacks on the basis of what Republican politicians say about the President.

I see little need to worry about our vulnerability as a result of the disingenuous and hypocritical attacks of Republicans.

I also see no need to stoop to their level, to engage in tit for tat behavior. Better just to expose their hypocrisy, as others commenting here have suggested.

Nevertheless, I see great need for Mr. Obama (and more importantly, for ALL Democratic politicians, who have been notably weak kneed and shadow-frightened for nigh on to 40 years now) to fight back most vigorously against Republicans on many fronts: health care, taxes, foreign policy, environmental concerns, etc.

Posted by: PaulG on February 6, 2010 at 2:20 PM | PERMALINK

Perhaps more important than the terrorists, the republicans are for sure emboldening Netanyahu and his right wing cadres. Nor can it help if Iran and China see the president as incapable of leading. Questioning policy is one thing. Lying about abilities is something entirely different.

Posted by: CDW on February 6, 2010 at 2:27 PM | PERMALINK

I just I had the key that would help partisans of all stripes, including the writer of this article, to realize that they are all so hypocritical, that a difference in who is more hypocritical than the other is meaningless. It's always the other side who started it, right? This reminds me of playing baseball in the street when I was a kid and players on my own team were angry at me b/c I acknowledged I had been tagged out. I'd love to think things change as we get older, but apparently not.

Posted by: David Eisenberg on February 6, 2010 at 2:44 PM | PERMALINK

Only a liberal would say what you have said; "Gosh, do onto others as you would have other do onto you? We shouldn't do tit-for-tat." I believe you are confusing principled dissent with character assassination and unprincipled attacks on the republic.

Turning the other cheek is not an effective survival mechanism when attacked by a rogue elephant, so I'm in the "charge conservatives with treason" camp. In fact, I'm going to say it...I want my country back.

Posted by: PTate in MN on February 6, 2010 at 2:49 PM | PERMALINK

Let us "pause and take a deep breath"?

You, sir, are a demon sheep (albeit an unwitting one).

Repudiating the republican party in terms of 'dissent' and 'loyalty' is a fools game, Benen.

It is not a principled opposition that has wandered astray from its bedrock values.

It is today the party of American fascism. It is the enemy of liberty, the enemy within, the mortal enemy of our democracy.

Wise up.

Posted by: JW on February 6, 2010 at 3:35 PM | PERMALINK

Is it possible that Steve is living in a political Ozzie&Harriet Land on this? Over the centuries, not starting in 2000, some pretty nasty things have been said from all sides. Must even journalists mince words and play nice?

Once in a blue moon the MSM says something right and Steve says, 'Oh Dear!'.

Posted by: Michael7843853 on February 6, 2010 at 3:59 PM | PERMALINK

"Take a deep breath" not put shoe on other foot ...
That's the way pussies feel and think.

Posted by: delver on February 6, 2010 at 5:11 PM | PERMALINK

I didn't think it was treasonous to question the methods and tactics of the Bush Administration's prosecution of the "War on Terror." The reasoning being Bush and Cheney were actually pursuing policies: the War in Iraq, torture, rendition, Guantanamo Bay, warrantless wiretapping - which I believe to be anti-American in nature.

Contrast that with the conservative criticism of this President on defense/terrorism. What are the grounds for their criticism -that Obama MIGHT be endangering NYC with the KSM trial, that Obama MIGHT be making the U.S. more of a terrorist target by housing and trying Guantanamo inmates on U.S. soil, that he MIGHT be making the military less cohesive by pushing for repeal of DADT. It's all speculative screaming to put Obama at a political disadvantage. Nothing more. Nothing less.

I don't think it emboldens or frightens terrorists when there is political opposition. Terrorists are going to act or not act based on their own particular behaviors, not based on anything American politicians say or don't say about the President or the institution of the Presidency.

Posted by: Peter Kohan on February 6, 2010 at 5:12 PM | PERMALINK

While one part of me, the reptilian brain part, wants to say, "yeah, give them some of their own medicine and see how they like it", the rational part of me recoils.

It was execrable for the Bush/Cheney Administration to equate dissent with disloyalty and it's equally execrable for this Administration to do equate dissent with disloyalty.

As much as I detest the venom and underhanded tactics of the TEAbaggers and their ilk, branding them as disloyal or somehow hurting the president is utter bosh.

They only hurt us if we let them.

Rant on.

Posted by: Steve on February 6, 2010 at 5:24 PM | PERMALINK

I have to side with those who pointed out that Al Qaeda most likely doesn't sit around waiting for the Republicans to soften up this country so they can attack. Al Qaeda will attack when the Al Qaeda leadership thinks it can inflict the most damage and gain the most publicity.
There is no reason for Democrats not to continually refer the Republican's hypocrisy in matters of national security. And who knows, if Democrats bring it up often enough, the average voter might just realize that the Republicans aren't really worried about national security, only elections.
We'll know THAT has happened when President McCain denounces Democrats for "playing politics with national security" on MTP...

Posted by: Doug on February 6, 2010 at 5:42 PM | PERMALINK

One more thing (this post really bothered me, Steve' to equate assertive, progressive, insistent fact-checking with the flat out lying of Republicans is just a tiny part of what's wrong with the post): There is no such thing, now, as the "loyal opposition." The avowed, admitted, explicit strategy of whatever it is that calls itself the Republican party today is to oppose Obama because he is a) not a Republican and b) not "like" the ruling elite, which is to say not an old white guy. There is nothing loyal to the country about it, only a complete and ruinous refusal to put national interests ahead of personal, partisan political advantage. It's destructive and dangerous; these are perilous times for a lot of reasons, from climate to war to the impact on the economy and individuals of health care and Wall Street. And the Republicans are working hard against resolving any of these problems. Calling them out for the dangerous effects of their obstructionism is essential.

Posted by: SF on February 6, 2010 at 6:15 PM | PERMALINK

They are harming us in another sense: If you are Al Qaeda and know you can only mount a half-ass attack, you go for it anyway because you know the Republicans will attack Obama on political grounds, will undertake further erosion of our legal system, and generate further instability and division in our politics. You know the Republicans will act as your allies.

I am praying that the administration nails bin Laden or Al Zawahiri soon so they can tell the Republicans to stick terrorism where the sun doesn't shine.

Posted by: bob h on February 6, 2010 at 6:17 PM | PERMALINK

Sorry, but after 7 years of being chased by these scum, I am quite happy to turn around and kick these Southern traitors in their teeth. And they are traitors. It's in their DNA.

Posted by: TCinLA on February 6, 2010 at 9:24 PM | PERMALINK

"I don't blame the GOP as much as Obama"

That's because you're a moron. And nothing in your subsequent comments disproves that the stupidity reflected in this quote was an anomaly.

Posted by: brewmn on February 7, 2010 at 12:57 AM | PERMALINK

I would have liked to have seen Senator Shelby try that 70 nominee freeze on LBJ. Lyndon would have had his Defense Secretary in proto to discuss closing Ft. Rucker, Alabama, and moving it to Texas. Shelby wouldn't get so much as a new post office approved for his state. And everyone else would have gotten the message. And now we have Obama, the conciliator. Hows that working out for us?

Posted by: Malcolm on February 7, 2010 at 6:23 AM | PERMALINK

I dont think the GOP realizes that they are in danger of looking like theyre truly excited about anything that might make dems look badtheyre Doomsday Cheerleaders including high unemployment, attempted terrorism, etc. I think/hope it might catch up with them by November, especially if the economy keeps showing signs of stabilizing and improving somewhat.

Sarah Palin's teabagger speech last night was run on all of the cable news networks isn't going to help them either-- apparently her snarling attacks on a sitting president don't go over well among those who don't already love and fantasize about her regularly. If Palin is the posterchild for the GOP/teabaggers it's not going to improve the GOP brand or help them in November. Let's hope that they don't realize ever that.

Posted by: zoe kentucky in pittsburgh on February 7, 2010 at 7:33 AM | PERMALINK



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