Political Animal

Blog

May 02, 2012 9:07 AM Trump Card Played

By Ed Kilgore

I don’t know if the president’s trip to Afghanistan, the “security agreement” he signed, or the speech he made that was beamed back home, will be remembered much at all in accounts of the Obama presidency or of the Afghan war. A lot obviously depends on what happens next in Afghanistan, and there are dozens of things that can go badly wrong.

But the trip and speech did put an end, at least temporarily, to a pretty intensive campaign by Republicans to circumscribe the president’s ability to take credit for military or even foreign policy successes, which have been important in holding up his job approval ratings. Here’s how Salon’s Steve Koracki explained the gambit as “making Mitt look small”:

After Obama authorized a campaign video that suggested Romney wouldn’t have given the go ahead for the mission that killed the al-Qaeda leader, Romney and an army of Republican leaders and commentators cranked up the righteous indignation, blasting Obama for politicizing what should have been a nationally unifying commemoration. When their outrage was amplified by neutral and even some decidedly non-Republican media voices, it seemed possible that Obama really had gone too far and that a backlash might be brewing.
And so it was that Romney decided to spend Tuesday, the exact anniversary of the bin Laden raid, with Rudy Giuliani, who a decade after 9/11 is still routinely referred to by the press as “America’s mayor.” The two men - bitter enemies until very recently - showed up at a New York City firehouse for a pizza delivery photo op, then took turns shaming Obama….
But as the Mitt-and-Rudy show playing out, word was spreading that Obama had quietly left the country and arrived in Afghanistan….
[Obama delivered] was a dramatic, eloquent speech on an emotional day, witnessed live by tens of millions of Americans who are ready to put the war in the rearview mirror. Whatever political benefit Romney reaped from his appearance with Giuliani - and from the past few days of wailing by the GOP - evaporated on the spot. Romney seemed to recognize it, too.
“I am pleased that President Obama has returned to Afghanistan,” he said in a statement released after the speech. “Our troops and the American people deserve to hear from our President about what is at stake in this war.”

To put it another way, Obama’s ultimate response to demands that he not “exploit for political purposes” his role as commander-in-chief was to say “Watch this!” and then reappear on television screens live from Kabul. Presidents can make news however and whenever they want, and when they are performing legitimate national security functions, no one dares question their right to do so even if it’s in the middle of a reelection campaign. Team Romney might want to remember that next time it starts one of these kerfuffles over the president being too “political.”

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

Comments

  • sick-n-effn-tired. on May 02, 2012 9:29 AM:

    Jon Stewart nailed it last night :

    New Republican talking point WHAAA WHAAA.

    Damn right we are politicizing it . We are going to put it right up in your face you limp dick Neocon draft dodging chickenhawks.

    Mitt Romney ? Seriously? Not one of those brave Romney boys ever served. EVER
    we know a joke when we see one

  • stormskies on May 02, 2012 9:32 AM:

    Appear small ? He is nothing more than a 'barker' in front of a house of prostitution ...

  • Peter C on May 02, 2012 9:40 AM:

    I'm fairly confident in Obama's ability to campaign effectively. I'm looking forward to his making our case.

    The idea that Republicans could express 'righteous indignation' that someone ELSE would dare to politicize ANYTHING is ridiculous. Republicans are constantly indignant, but they've forfeited all rights to righteousness about it.

    I think our response to their indigation should be, "Bah! Republicans are just upset that Obamas success makes them look bad, but that's not Obama's doing. Republicans look bad solely because of their actions and incompetence."

  • g on May 02, 2012 9:45 AM:

    a pretty intensive campaign by Republicans to circumscribe the president’s ability to take credit for military or even foreign policy successes

    Why anyone would lend even a whiff of legitimacy to such a talking point, I have no idea.

  • Ron Byers on May 02, 2012 9:47 AM:

    The point about a President being able to make news whenever they want seems to have been forgotten by the mighty wurlitzer. I guess they really believe Obama is a wimp. Boy they have that wrong.

    I would note that the idea that the economy is still in really bad shape is going unchallenged by Democrats. We are hearing the claim over and over again by Republican spokesmen and women. We haven't recovered as much as we would like, but we, unlike the Europeans who have installed a full on austerity program, aren't doing as well. People need to be reminded that the Republicans program has been tried and found wanting.

  • Hedda Peraz on May 02, 2012 9:49 AM:

    Some dark night-soon- Romney will awaken, drenched in sweat, and realize that Obama is smarter than he is.
    And so is the President's entire campaign staff. (Perhaps POTUS even has a Gay On Board!)

  • SadOldVet on May 02, 2012 9:49 AM:

    I, too, am confident in Obama's ability to campaign effectively! Maybe.

    I hope that Obama will campaign on his many accomplishments that differentiate him from the candidate of the 1/10 of 1%ers. I hope that Obama will not be a wishy washy compromisers with the repukes in the senate and house this year. I hope that Obama will decide to campaign on a relatively progressive platform. I hope that Obama will remind the ameriKKKan sheeple over and over again of the Bush/Cheney destruction of our economy and how he has started to bring it back from the brink.

    I hope that Obama is reelected and then actually presides over a 2nd term that is unafraid of the repukes and willing to fight them to get what is right for our country. No more co-presidents Snowe and Collins and Nelson and LIEbermann.

  • c u n d gulag on May 02, 2012 9:52 AM:

    Maybe, after leaving Afghanistan, Obama should have landed on an aircraft carrier in a helicopter, pranced around on the deck in a flight-suit with an overstuffed codpiece, smirked, smiled, and waved, to the military and media people on board, changed into a business suit, and, beneath a banner that said "Finally - Mission Accomplished!" given this short speech:

    "Now THIS is how you 'exploit an event for political purposes,' BEEYOTCHES!!!
    Look familiar?
    It should!
    Except now, we're getting out, and not getting in deeper.

    You're welcome.
    I SAID YOu'RE WELCOME!!!

    I didn't get a 'Harumph!' outta that guy!"

  • theperilouspea on May 02, 2012 9:57 AM:

    I hope that Obama is reelected and then actually presides over a 2nd term that is unafraid of the repukes and willing to fight them to get what is right for our country. No more co-presidents Snowe and Collins and Nelson and LIEbermann.

    Yassiree !

  • sick-n-effn-tired. on May 02, 2012 9:58 AM:

    CUND FTW
    Great idea

  • zandru on May 02, 2012 10:01 AM:

    "The point about a President being able to make news whenever they want seems to have been forgotten by the mighty wurlitzer." saith Ron Byers.

    Exactly! Remember, the Republicans that the wurlitzer plays for appear to have not yet comprehended that voice and video CAN BE RECORDED and played back for maximum embarrassment throughout the campaign.

    SadOldVet, your hopes have a greater chance of being realized if voters can also give the President a strongly Democratic Congress - return the House, strengthen control of the Senate, and replace the bluedogs with Dems from the Democratic wing of the party.

    That's why I think Paul Krugman hits the nail on its head this morning, where he suggests that campaigning on Republican obstructionism would be a winner. Not only would it focus the blame, it would extend Obama's coattails and remind voters what else is at stake.

    Captcha states "eroond politics," which I guess is what we need in these trying times.

  • AMS on May 02, 2012 10:16 AM:

    I guess I shouldn't be, but I was surprised at the extent to which the media took the GOP bait about Obama "politicizing" the killing of OBL.

    What, after all, did Obama do? His campaign released ONE AD, straightforwardly recounting Obama's high-risk call, and accurately quoting his opponent blowing off the importance of taking out OBL. That's it!

    The media has endlessly repeated this ad and covered the made-up GOP outrage about it, creating the impression that Obama is repeatedly bragging about the OBL kill. He isn't, hasn't, and won't.

    It's ridiculous to think that a President running for re-election should refrain from mentioning one of his signature foreign policy achievements for fear of "politicizing" it. Surely statements by his opponent that shed doubt on what he or she would have done are fair game. And yet the media fell for it....again.

  • boatboy_srq on May 02, 2012 10:24 AM:

    @Hedda - that would require self-awareness. I'm not convinced Romney has the neurons - or the moral foundation - even for that.

  • martin on May 02, 2012 10:40 AM:

    Rudy Giuliani, who a decade after 9/11 is still routinely referred to by the press as “America’s mayor.”

    Oh, it's even worse. NPR this morning referred to Giuliani as "9/11 Hero".

  • Dredd on May 02, 2012 10:56 AM:

    Surely the big question of our time, concerning Afghanistan, is Why Stay? Even the answers raise more questions it seems.

  • exlibra on May 02, 2012 11:11 AM:

    Obama puts out one ad and that's "politicizing the tragedy". Romney is prancing around with noun-verb-9-11 Giulliani, pretending to be a "regular guy" (buying and delivering pizza to firefighters) and that's... what?

    These days, I still read the NYTimes, but only for what we used to call "human interest" tidbits, not for the political news. And I gave up TV for Lent many years ago. The rot in the press corpse (not a typo) has really reached unprecedented levels of stink.

    "Having ommokshe"? Is that a new way of spelling "moxie"?

  • Gretchen on May 02, 2012 11:48 AM:

    Um, they didn't actually eat pizza with the firefighters. They had their pictures taken carrying pizzas into the firehouse. Then, when they thought the photographers had left, they dumped the pizzas into the arms of an aide and took off. Eat with the working class? You must be joking!

  • Sgt. Gym Bunny on May 02, 2012 12:06 PM:

    To put it another way, Obama’s ultimate response to demands that he not “exploit for political purposes” his role as commander-in-chief was to say “Watch this!” and then reappear on television screens live from Kabul.

    I really like Obama's style. The classic quit-crying-before-I-give-ya-somethin'-to-cry-about ho-slap.

  • schtick on May 02, 2012 12:41 PM:

    You people don't get it. Obama is not supposed to talk about any success he has had, few they may be or not, until the elections are over and/or while Romney is campaigning. Only the tealiban can do that.

  • smartalek on May 02, 2012 7:07 PM:

    "the media fell for it....again."

    I mean no disrespect, AMS, when I humbly suggest that the media can't be falling for a lie -- and an entire panoply of extended and interrelated lies -- that they are centrally complicit not only in disseminating, but in creating.
    It is the citizenry, especially the voters, who are falling for the lies...
    And (again, I mean no disrespect here; I assume we're all on the same side) so is anyone who still thinks the media are among the ones being played, rather than key participants -- and beneficiaries -- among the ones doing the playing.