President Obama on Terror: An Uncertain Trumpet
“George W. Bush, forty-third president – forty-third president to not kill bin Laden, that is.” That’s the way the funsters on Saturday Night Live lampooned President Obama’s imaginary victory lap after Osama bin Laden was taken out by U.S. forces last May. It was a made-for-Hollywood moment for the president. But it was curiously empty. No one expected, or even thought it would be a good idea, for President Obama to dance in the end zone after that score. Still, the rightful satisfaction Americans should take from this wholly acceptable act of reprisal has been missing.
Why has the president not spoken soberly and carefully about the issues involved in the successful targeting of this mass murderer? The best single article written about the attack on bin Laden’s compound was printed in the August 6, 2011 issue of the reliably liberal New Yorker. While Nicholas Schmidle’s minute-by-minute account of the raid is invaluable, what is missing is a reasoned justification for the raid. What is missing is presidential leadership.
As a result, there has been no accrual of support from the American people for what must be seen as President Obama’s finest hour. Actually, the news of the bin Laden raid barely registered a blip on approval ratings for this president. We were all “focused like a laser on the economy” before the May 1st raid, and we immediately returned to near-obsession with our financial doldrums.
We need to attend to our stricken economy, to be sure. But we should also pay necessary heed to the danger of terrorism. This is especially so as we approach the tenth anniversary of 9/11. If we think the economy is bad now, and it is, just consider how much worse it would be were we to suffer another paralyzing terrorist attack.
There’s a reason why President Obama has not been able to rally support as a result of his successful anti-terror operation. It’s the same reason that eluded best-selling historian Steven Ambrose in his book Wild Blue: The Men and Boys Who Flew the B-24s Over Germany/1944-45.
My purpose here is not to re-hash the plagiarism controversy that unfortunately attended that excellent book. Instead, I want to note Ambrose’s puzzlement over the 1972 election of Richard Nixon over George McGovern.
Wild Blue tells the compelling story of incredible heroism by our young fliers over Germany. None is more compelling than that of Capt. George McGovern, Army Air Corps. It’s fair to say that McGovern is the hero of the book. He richly deserves the belated fame he gained as a result of his World War II combat record.
Ambrose was perplexed. How could this country have fallen for the patriotic posing of Richard Nixon – who spent the war playing high-stakes poker on a Navy supply ship – and spurned Sen. George McGovern, the real war hero in the race?
The real reason why President Obama has hurriedly put the bin Laden raid behind him is the same reason why George McGovern could not point to his wonderful combat record, or even let others point to it: The Democratic Party houses a large and influential pacifist element.
Recall that in January, 2008, then-Sen. Barack Obama made a YouTube video for distribution to the Peace Caucus-Goers in the run-up to the Iowa Caucuses. In that 52-second clip, candidate Obama takes the most left-wing position of any Democratic candidate for president that year. He is a virtual pacifist.
Sen. Obama won the Iowa Democratic Caucuses in 2008. In doing so, he defeated Sen. Hillary Clinton, who was desperately trying to achieve two contradictory goals: prove that as the first woman candidate for president she could be a tough commander-in-chief, and retain her credibility as a leading liberal.
Mr. Obama’s victory in the mostly-white, largely rural state of Iowa rocketed his candidacy into the lead. Seeing him win Iowa convinced many black leaders in the Democratic Party that Obama’s time, and their time, had come. This would be no quixotic preacher-as-candidate campaign, like those of Rev. Jesse Jackson and Rev. Al Sharpton. This time, they would not make a statement; they would make a difference.
It was and is historic. But it also explains why there was no “bin Laden bounce.” In order for the president to get such a bounce, he would have to lead the American people. He would have to use the Bully Pulpit of the White House to teach us all how important it is strike fear into the hearts of all who would do us harm.
As we look to the Mideast, to the Bloody Crescent where radical Islam clashes with Hindus, Buddhists, Jews, and Christians, as well as with moderate Muslims, it’s important for America’s power and purpose to be respected. Tragically, even when President Obama achieves a brilliant success, as he did last May, he is forced by his pacifist following to mute his message. His leadership has become an uncertain trumpet.