Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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May 2, 2011

THE FUTILE EFFORT TO DOWNPLAY BIG NEWS.... For Republicans responding to the killing to Osama bin Laden, there are a few options. The first is gracious non-partisanship, applauding President Obama and military, law enforcement, and intelligence agency officials. This response is not exactly in large supply.

The second is to ignore recent history and give George W. Bush credit for Obama's success. Some are pretending Obama isn't even president right now

And the third is to just pretend the news isn't all that important.

Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum -- who's been running hard lately as the foreign policy guy in the prospective 2012 Republican presidential field -- told a reporter in Iowa today that when you really think about it, taking out Osama Bin Laden's not really that big a deal in the scheme of things.

"Congratulations, well done, well orchestrated," Santorum told the Des Moines Register before an event with voters. "That's one isolated area as opposed to the president's foreign policy and how it's affecting our security. The president's foreign policy with respect to our security is to make our allies less confident in us and has resulted in them in distancing themselves from us."

Of course, the notion that allies are distancing themselves from the United States is ludicrous, but then again, so is Rick Santorum.

I'm not surprised, though, that some Republicans would downplay the news. Indeed, it fits into a larger pattern -- leading GOP voices have been downplaying Osama bin Laden for many years. President Bush, for example, admitted he didn't much care either way about the al Qaeda leader was caught.

And in the 2008 campaign, John McCain put restrictions on how/whether he'd pursue OBL; Mitt Romney said taking OBL out wasn't especially important; and Fred Thompson said, "Bin Laden is more symbolism than anything else."

After years of rhetoric like this, Santorum's attempt to downplay bin Laden's death is predictable. It won't work -- I get the sense the public considers this much more important than Republican presidential candidates do -- but if Santorum wants to push the line that last night's news wasn't a big deal, he's welcome to knock himself out.

Steve Benen 2:30 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (38)

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Comments

Leave it to Santorum to take a profoundly stupid approach. One wonders how he ties his shoes each morning.

Posted by: DJ on May 2, 2011 at 2:35 PM | PERMALINK

You forgot the fourth option: deny that OBL is dead. That's happening right now.

Posted by: mikeyes on May 2, 2011 at 2:35 PM | PERMALINK

It's not surprising that Republicans would down-play Bin Laden's importance. By having a handy bogeyman to be trotted out time & again, it keeps the war machine chugging along.

Posted by: zhak on May 2, 2011 at 2:37 PM | PERMALINK

[The "Al" schtick has run it's course and will no longer be entertained here. --Mods]

Posted by: Al on May 2, 2011 at 2:41 PM | PERMALINK

Well, I for one am NOT going to believe he's dead until I see the long-form Death Certificate.

Posted by: bleh on May 2, 2011 at 2:44 PM | PERMALINK

"Fred Thompson said, "Bin Laden is more symbolism than anything else.""

Yeah, and until yesterday the symbolism was that bin Laden was kicking the ass of the greatest nation/army in the world. Now he's not. That's a good thing, isn't it Fred?

Posted by: Vandal on May 2, 2011 at 2:45 PM | PERMALINK

Even an itsy-bitsy-brained Republican politician realizes that finally finishing the job on bin Ladin is a political win for Obama-- so, what are they going to do? If they have a shred of decency, congratulate Obama and then try to move on. If not... Kristol and Cheney show the way. I'll admit to a lack of surprise about that.

Posted by: MattF on May 2, 2011 at 2:47 PM | PERMALINK

Rick Santorum - Foreign Policy Expert.

Ok, that's the punchline.

What's the joke leading up to it?

Remember to keep googling "Santorum" on a regular basis.
Now THAT'S funny!!!

Posted by: c u n d gulag on May 2, 2011 at 2:49 PM | PERMALINK

Clinton got blamed for 9/11, so it's only fair to give Bush credit for getting bin laden.

Posted by: hells littlest angel on May 2, 2011 at 2:49 PM | PERMALINK

Leave it to Santorum to take a profoundly stupid approach. One wonders how he ties his shoes each morning.

One word: velcro.

-Z

Posted by: Zorro on May 2, 2011 at 2:52 PM | PERMALINK

"... the public considers this much more important than Republican presidential candidates". Period. You can end the sentence there.

Posted by: MrYdobon on May 2, 2011 at 2:59 PM | PERMALINK

Denigrate, disparage, marginalize- three of many, many words that Republicans have been using since Obama Came to America.

If you wonder how that has been workin' out for ya- check out the euphoric crowds all across America last night!

Posted by: DAY on May 2, 2011 at 2:59 PM | PERMALINK

Zorro assumes Santorum is smart enough to use Velcro. That is a charitable assumption.

Posted by: DJ on May 2, 2011 at 3:00 PM | PERMALINK

I'm not sure it is that significant. Will it really change the course of the War on Terror? If so, great, but I'm afraid it's just symbolism, and I don't blame them for saying so. Howard Dean said the same thing when Saddam Hussein was captured, and he was right. That said, the Republicans could stop hyping that one, so it's obviously hypocritical for them to downplay bin Laden's defeat.

Posted by: Jurgan on May 2, 2011 at 3:05 PM | PERMALINK

I like Al!

Posted by: st john on May 2, 2011 at 3:05 PM | PERMALINK

A lot of people don't realize how the new reflublican mindset and behavior pattern works. It's a turn-on, their fans expect to see "how are they going to resist giving in to or helping out the other side this time?" whenever something comes up. It's a test of "strength", "resolve", "loyalty" (to Koch, the Christianists, all the forces pulling us down.) The more disgusting or baffling to normal people, the more an "accomplishment" it is to that very base base.

Posted by: neil b on May 2, 2011 at 3:05 PM | PERMALINK

Leave it to Santorum to take a profoundly stupid approach. One wonders how he ties his shoes each morning.

One word: Loafers

Posted by: Blue Girl on May 2, 2011 at 3:08 PM | PERMALINK

How can these douche bag repugs even open their mouths to give praise to Bush/ Cheney when it is a known fact that it was them that let Bin Laden get away back in 2001 when they had him trapped in Tora Bora? This is great but it could have happened 10 years ago.

Posted by: Chris on May 2, 2011 at 3:10 PM | PERMALINK

Downplaying Obama's genuine accomplishments is par for the mainstream media.

But word does get out, doesn't it?

The press refused to label Ryan's budget a plan to kill Medicare, and yet ... the people figured it out, they KNEW.

Republicans cannot continue to control all the parameters of our political discourse when really big things happen.

Posted by: jjm on May 2, 2011 at 3:18 PM | PERMALINK

One more thing; there's a new tee shirt logo:

"It took Obama to catch Osama."

Posted by: jjm on May 2, 2011 at 3:20 PM | PERMALINK

"Mitt Romney said taking OBL out wasn't especially important; and Fred Thompson said, 'Bin Laden is more symbolism than anything else.'"

Wow, if only they had echoed those sentiments in 2002! We could have avoided losing thousands of American lives and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi/Afghan lives. Not to mention trillions of dollars.

Posted by: bdop4 on May 2, 2011 at 3:27 PM | PERMALINK

Remember, these are the same guys that said Al Qaeda was going to collapse as soon as we captured Sadam.

Posted by: J. Frank Parnell on May 2, 2011 at 3:28 PM | PERMALINK

Had bin Laden been caught in some cave on the Afghanistan border, half-starved, subsisting on catfood and forced to remain on the run each night with no contact with the outside world, I might be inclined to agree that his death will not really have a significant impact on Al Qaeda operations going forward and that it was mostly symbolic.

But here he was in a well fortified villa in the middle of a city that serves as the nerve center of the Pakistani military and intelligence services. True, he didn't appear to have phone or internet service, but obviously he could keep in touch with people he wanted to keep in touch with. Was bin Laden perhaps more active than we had assumed? Maybe his demise will be more than just a moral victory and will really spell the end of Al Qaeda as a serious terror threat. We can hope.

Posted by: jonas on May 2, 2011 at 4:13 PM | PERMALINK

"Congratulations, well done, well orchestrated," Santorum told the Des Moines Register before an event with voters. "That's one isolated area as opposed to the president's foreign policy and how it's affecting our security. The president's foreign policy with respect to our security is to make our allies less confident in us and has resulted in them in distancing themselves from us."

Translated for those not able to hear the frequency of Santorum's dog whistle: "Yes, it's nice to have gotten Osama bin Laden, but it doesn't make up for the fact that the Israelis don't like Obama and this is the only foreign policy relationship that ought to count."

Posted by: jonas on May 2, 2011 at 4:20 PM | PERMALINK

It isn't just the death of OBL, but the un-covering of not so secret Pakistani ISI shenanigans that also needs media time.

Why could he hide so brazenly in Pakistan? He had help.

Obama is going to be asking Pakistani diplomats....what the f*88k were you guys up to?

No, look beyond the death, the surgical strike.

This story is not over.

Posted by: Tom Nicholson on May 2, 2011 at 4:21 PM | PERMALINK
I'm not sure it is that significant. Will it really change the course of the War on Terror? If so, great, but I'm afraid it's just symbolism

Symbolism matters quite a lot in war, and that is particularly true in the war on terrorism. al-Qaida's influence, prestige, and ability to attract new followers was largely due to to the symbolism, rather than the substantive impact, of its major attacks (including, but not limited to, 9/11.)

You win wars, most often, by either destroying the enemy leadership's will to fight, or by destroying their supporting populations will to support continuing the fight (often, those two are closely interrelated) more than any other means: these are moral factors that are very much affected by symbolism.


Posted by: cmdicely on May 2, 2011 at 4:27 PM | PERMALINK

Anybody who questions President Obama's leadership on this issue can tell it to Bin Laden's 100% dead ass.

The right-wing caricature of democrats generally and Obama specifically just took a beating. They can try to deny Obama a well-earned victory, but the scoreboard doesn't lie.

Posted by: varmintito on May 2, 2011 at 4:44 PM | PERMALINK

Santorum is two "i's" short of a nuthouse.
insert "bagger Vance" reference...

rightwingers are too dumb to be worthy of response.

Posted by: andyvillager on May 2, 2011 at 5:14 PM | PERMALINK

republicans in general are pathetic. They are disgusting sad sack excuses for human beings not worthy of the label: human.

Posted by: zoot on May 2, 2011 at 6:03 PM | PERMALINK

Mitt Romney said taking OBL out wasn't especially important; and Fred Thompson said, "Bin Laden is more symbolism than anything else."

Bin Laden conspired to kill thousands of people.

This makes him a mass murderer.
Bringing him to justice wasn't important. It was just symbolic.

Remind me again folks, WHICH party is "soft on crime?"

I think one of them just slipped into the liquid phase.

Posted by: toowearyforoutrage on May 2, 2011 at 8:22 PM | PERMALINK

I saw the clip. Santorum made this speech to about 3 people. Ha!

Posted by: bobsled on May 2, 2011 at 8:51 PM | PERMALINK

"...and Fred Thompson said, "Bin Laden is more symbolism than anything else."

I think we have a winner. They will go with this canard, hope unemployment rises, and pray the price of gas keeps rising. The GOP - real American heroes.

Posted by: max on May 2, 2011 at 9:32 PM | PERMALINK

The stupid ones (Santorum) will downplay it.

The bitter ones will make up something to complain about:"Obama's hogging the limelight", "Obama doesn't seem happy enough about it". etc.

The crazy ones will think it's a hoax.

And the more politically astute ones will find a way to give props to Bush.

The ones willing to put partisanship aside.... well much like Santa Claus and the tooth fairy they don't exist.

Posted by: Rip on May 2, 2011 at 9:56 PM | PERMALINK

Of course Santorum is eager to downplay it; in the larger scheme of things, that Osama has Bin Laiden to Rest is nowhere near as important as the WMDs the Frothy One, himself, has found in I-wreck. How soon the ungrateful nation forgets!

Posted by: exlibra on May 2, 2011 at 10:40 PM | PERMALINK

The right-wing attempt to play this as a non-event, or as an event that had nothing to do with the sitting President, is simply tragic. There is no other word for it. These people are betraying their own souls out of spite. They are hollow people.

Posted by: GP on May 2, 2011 at 11:49 PM | PERMALINK

I'm not 100% unsympathetic to the idea (whether expressed today or four years ago) that there was some small abstract benefit to be had by our politicians saying "Meh, bin Laden, he's a nobody." You could at least make the case--although I wouldn't have wanted to--that giving him any oxygen was a mistake, and I guess maybe there was always the chance that if he couldn't get a rise out of us it would weaken his standing among the al-Qaeda powers that be. Maybe.

Of course, that's only okay if that blasé attitude is masking furious, balls-to-the-wall behind-the-scenes efforts to nail his ass. Santorum is just ankle-biting, of course, but Bush and McCain probably downplayed the importance of capturing bin Laden because they honestly believed the task was too difficult for them and the government they led (or wanted to lead).

Watch self-conscious adolescents try and fail at a challenging task. Most of them, if they have the chance, will immediately say they don't care and it's not important, and if they're feeling especially sensitive on the subject of their failure, they'll mutter that it can't be done anyway.

Posted by: Matt on May 3, 2011 at 1:49 AM | PERMALINK

As annoying as it may be to see conservatives downplaying Obama's success in killing Bin Laden, if we're being honest with ourselves the truth is that it doesn't change much.

We're still fighting wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya, unemployment is still disturbingly high, the national debt is still growing, and budgets are still being slashed to the bone (defense excepted, of course).

So in the overall scheme of things, the truth is that killing Bin Laden doesn't change too much, whether we want to admit it or not.

Posted by: mfw13 on May 3, 2011 at 7:19 AM | PERMALINK

When confronted with this type of bs from the right respond with;
Bush couldn't, Obama can!

Posted by: truthbetold on May 3, 2011 at 8:44 AM | PERMALINK
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