By Bill Press
Tribune Media Services
She didn’t win the primaries, but Hillary Clinton still produced the most effective political ad of the 2008 campaign. Remember?
“It’s 3 a.m., and your children are safe and asleep,” intones a sober voice over the image of two kids in bed. “But there’s a phone in the White House, and it’s ringing. Something’s happening in the world. Your vote will decide who answers that phone.”
There was no doubt about the message: Hillary Clinton had both the experience and toughness to be trusted to answer that phone, Barack Obama did not. At one time, Republicans planned to recycle that ad and use it against President Obama in 2012. But no longer. Over and over again, Obama’s proven he’s not only capable of answering one phone, he’s ready to pick up another one and give orders to kill.
Against America’s enemies, Obama has turned out to be a veritable killing machine. Look at his record. September 11 mastermind Osama bin Laden: tracked down and killed in Pakistan. Anti-American cleric Anwar Al-Awlaki: tracked down and killed by American drone in Yemen. Dictator Moammar Gadhafi: stopped in his tracks by American drone in Libya. Plus hundreds of low-level targets (and innocent civilians) killed by drone missile strikes in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Obama’s record is so brutal that one White House reporter even suggested he should give back his Nobel Peace Prize. But, of course, that’s not how Republicans see it. Seriously, as conservative columnist Andrew Sullivan noted, if any Republican president, within 12 months, had dispatched Osama bin Laden, Anwar al-Awlaki, and Moammar Gadhafi, he’d already be on Mount Rushmore. But, however begrudgingly, Republicans would at least give Barack Obama credit for being tough on terrorists. Right?
Wrong! They have such teeny minds they’ve proven themselves genetically incapable of giving Obama credit for anything. On Libya, Florida’s teenage Senator Marco Rubio set the tone. Appearing on Fox News shortly after Gadhafi’s capture, Rubio said: “Let’s give credit where credit is due, it’s the French and the British that led on this fight. And probably even led on the strike that led to Gadhafi’s capture or to his death.”
In his ignorance, Rubio not only failed to recognize the tremendous job done by the U.S. military in Libya — from initially knocking down Gadhafi’s air defenses to providing the logistical and intelligence support for all that followed — he either didn’t know or refused to mention it was an American drone that spotted the Libyan dictator trying to flee Sirte and, after alerting a French fighter jet, fired the missile that derailed his fleeing convoy.
Rubio wasn’t alone, of course. Jon Huntsman accused Obama of “leading from behind.” Jeff Sessions complained that the entire operation took too long (seven months?). And Michele Bachmann insisted we never should have gotten involved in Libya in the first place. Not one Republican gave Obama credit for a job well done.
It was the same with the capture and killing of Osama bin Laden, which Obama personally ordered and directed. Many Republicans, led by former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, insisted that bin Laden’s demise was a vindication of the policies of George W. Bush — even though Bush soon abandoned the search for bin Laden and eventually told reporters he didn’t know where the September 11 mass killer was located, and didn’t care.
Not even bringing all troops home from Iraq won a peep of praise for Obama from Republicans. John McCain declared it a “serious mistake.” Mitt Romney accused Obama of putting our troops at risk. Rick Perry condemned him for not listening to commanders on the ground. And Dick Cheney blasted Obama’s “rush for the exit,” instead of leaving a residual force in Iraq, much like we still have in Germany, Japan, and South Korea. Oy, vey!
However rude the Republicans’ refusal to give Obama due credit for his foreign policy successes, it’s obvious why they won’t: Because the very success of Barack Obama in the Middle East highlights the total ineptitude of George W. Bush. Very quietly, Obama has delivered where Bush did nothing. Bush, we now know, was all swagger, no substance. In the war on terror, Obama’s the real thing.
Of course, there’s one other factor at work here, too. As one caller told my radio audience, the Republican Party is acting like certain banks in the South: They refuse to give a black man credit.
© 2011 Tribune Media Services, Inc.