Remember Bin Laden And Dance, Dance, Dance

All weekend, and again today, the talk is about tomorrow’s one-year anniversary of the demise of Obama bin Laden.

But Republicans are incensed that last Friday the Obama campaign released a web video—a web video, mind you—featuring President Clinton saying—surprise, surprise—nice things about Obama’s decision to send the terrorist bastard to the bottom of the sea.

The ball-buster was at the end when this question is posed:

Which path would Mitt Romney have taken?

That is a question worth asking because of Mittens’ remarks in 2007 that it wasn’t worth “moving heaven and earth and spending billions of dollars just trying to catch one person.”  John McCain found it in his politically duplicitous heart to criticize Romney at the time, but that was then and this is now. These days McCain is bad-mouthing Obama, claiming he is “doing a shameless end-zone dance to help himself get elected.

Well, after years of watching Republicans slander Democrats as being weak abroad, it is about time we danced and spiked the ball after our guy sent bin Laden snorkeling without a snorkel.

But more important, the Obama web video also featured a quote from a Reuter’s article from 2007:

Mitt Romney criticized Barack Obama for vowing to strike al-Qaeda targets inside Pakistan if necessary.

Whoops! Mittens shouldn’t have done that. Makes him look weak. And it is certainly fair game for the Obama team to point out that Romney couldn’t have been more wrong.

And that, of course, is what has Republicans, and their cable “news” channel friends, so theatrically indignant.

The truth of the matter is that it is more than okay for Democrats to point out their successes, even if it pisses off the entire Obama-hating world. And the reason it is okay is because the other side would be quick to point out Democratic failures. Just imagine what kind of campaign commercials we would be seeing from Romney, should the mission to get bin Laden have failed.

Some of us still remember Operation Eagle Claw.

That was the name given to the failed attempt in April of 1980 to rescue the 52 Americans held hostage in Iran by a mob of revolutionaries who had stormed our embassy in Teheran.  That failed mission, and the fact the hostages would not be coming home before Election Day, figured greatly in President Jimmy Carter’s loss to Ronald Reagan.

Anyone think that the Reagan campaign in 1980 simply ignored the botched mission? Anyone think that Republicans simply refused to go there? Refused to be divisive about a national failure? Or criticize Jimmy Carter for failed leadership?

Of course not. The campaign time and again emphasized Carter’s alleged foreign policy and leadership weaknesses.

Here’s the text of an ad that aired in 1980:

Do you really think Iranian terrorists would have taken Americans hostage, if Ronald Reagan were president?

Do you really think the Russians would have invaded Afghanistan, if Ronald Reagan were president?

Do you really think third-rate military dictators would laugh at America and burn our flag in contempt, if Ronald Reagan were president?

Isn’t it about time we had the strong new leadership Ronald Reagan would provide as president. Isn’t it about time America had a president whose judgment we can trust?

Nothing subtle about that.

In an ad aired just before election day, and “paid for and authorized by the Reagan Bush Committee,” a somber narrator read the following text:

In a copyrighted story in the New York Times on October 27th, William Safire wrote: “The smoothest of Iran’s diplomatic criminals was shown on American television this weekend, warning American voters that they had better not elect Ronald Reagan. Ayatollah Khomeini and his men prefer a weak and manageable U.S. president, and have decided to do everything in their power to determine our election result.”

Here’s another ad that aired that campaign season:

MALE NARRATOR: Very slowly, a step at a time, the hope for world peace erodes. Slowly, we once slid into Korea, slowly, into Vietnam. And now, the Persian Gulf beckons.

Jimmy Carter’s weak, indecisive leadership has vacillated before events in Angola, Ethiopia, and Afghanistan. Jimmy Carter still doesn’t know that it takes strong leadership to keep the peace. Weak leadership will lose it.

REAGAN: Of all the objectives we seek, first and foremost is the establishment of lasting world peace. We know only too well that war comes not when the forces of freedom are strong. It is when they are weak that tyrants are tempted…

Jimmy Carter’s weak, indecisive leadership…” Hmm.

The Republicans in 1980 even used Ted Kennedy in an ad against Carter. Kennedy ran against him in the Democratic primary and hurt him by saying things like this:

EDWARD KENNEDY: I say it’s time to say: No more American hostages. No more high interest rates. No more high inflation, and no more Jimmy Carter.

MALE NARRATOR: The time is now for strong leadership. Reagan for President.

“Strong leadership” is always worth emphasizing. It’s just that Republicans aren’t used to our guys emphasizing it. And it is just too damned bad that Republicans are upset that Obama’s team is showing American voters that this election year Democrats aren’t going to sit back and let Republicans smear them once again as foreign policy and military weaklings.


  1. Once again, because of this issue, I am amazed at myself for having voted for John McCain in 2008. His ability to dissemble for political reasons completely shatters the image I used to have of him as a maverick who would tell the truth and let the chips fall where they may. In pondering this I conclude that there is a human instinct that in many is more powerful than living up to high ideals, and that is base tribal loyalty. John, I never knew you at all.


    • Jim,

      You may not believe this, but way back in 2000 I could have been persuaded to support John McCain.

      After the Bush machine smeared him and his family in South Carolina, one would have thought that McCain would have used that stuff to further is image as an outsider who wouldn’t take crap from the establishment (his most admirable quality). But nope. He actually cozied up to the very folks who slandered him (including right-wing Christians who hated him), even hiring some of the smearers to help with his 2008 campaign. He also sold out many of his past positions (sound familiar) in order to get the GOP nomination and a man worth admiring simply doesn’t do that.

      As for the “I never knew you” aspect of McCain, I suggest reading about his alleged betrayal of MIAs in Vietnam. It will open your eyes. It did mine. A place to start:



  2. As chance would have it I came across a commentary on this subject by David Gergen, a rightist moderate with whom I have often agreed. He takes the position that the president is grandstanding, admits that most presidents do it, and then says other issues ought to outweigh OBL’s demise in the discourse.

    Of course they should, but to expect that to happen in this era’s polarized and bitter campaign, made even more toxic than usual by rampant gerrymandering in the last two years, is naive. The OBL issue is absolutely important simply because the electorate think it’s important, and what they think next November has enormous implications for the nation’s future. Like it or not, elections are as much about character and leadership, a.k.a. image, as any other issue, and maybe more.

    I like David Gergen and will continue to respect his advice, but he gets a thumbs-down on this one (link here) from me. As Duane so well pointed out, the Jimmy Carter mission-failure and its consequences exemplify reality, however one might wish otherwise.


    • Jim,

      I’m not a Gergen guy, although I do respect his demeanor, if not always his “advice.”

      But I find it fascinating how this thing about OBL is being played. We all know that had GW Bush got him, then he wouldn’t merely be on Mt. Rushmore, the right-wing would put him on his own separate and much taller mountain. But let Obama even hint that he had a crucial role in OBL’s maker-meeting end, and the whole world gets turned upside down. Suddenly it is the case that politicians aren’t suppose to promote their work in office or the decisions they made. Suddenly it is a scandal that a president would take credit for something he authorized, that happened to turn out very well.




  3. ansonburlingame

     /  May 1, 2012

    To all,

    The Search For Bin Ladin was a NATIONAL effort, started immediately after 9/11. Bush was heavily criticized for not finding him, as if that was Bush’s fault alone. Obama continued the effort along with a huge national effort (Read Top Secret America).

    Eagle Claw was a national failure, primarily caused by our military’s inability to launch such operations in 1980. That got fixed, over time by a NATIONAL effort to restructure the military’s ability to conduct “limited wars” a common phrase in use at that time. Special Operations was a term, again in 1980, used for covert spying missions, such as submarine operations against Soviet Naval forces during the Cold War about which NO ONE ever read until Hunt for Red October and later books..

    Speak of Spec Ops today and Delta Forces or SEALS come to the public mind, now. Oh that we had such skilled forces in 1980 but it took a national failure to created what we have today through a national effort, not the “courage” of one man, President or not.

    I agree with Gergen in that Obama and his campaign are “grand standing” by patting the President on the back for ordering the execution of the mission to finally bring Bin Ladin to “justice”, war like justice, not the legal sort in a court of law.

    Given the circumstances a year ago, I would find it hard to believe that any President would have NOT allowed the mission to proceed as well, McCain, Carter, etc. from the past or any President in the future.

    But when politicians start to try to make campaign “hay” over choices that would be arguably common ot any President, well to me is sounds like “gloating”. SEALS and Delta Forces NEVER gloat.

    So why should their commanders, particularly commanders sitting in a very “safe” place watching events unfold on TV. Yes, Obama had the courage to allow the mission to proceed. But the real courage was the men that got into those helos and flew directly into harm’s way.

    I bet you won’t see that reflection of courage in a campaign ad.



  4. ansonburlingame

     /  May 1, 2012

    To all, again,

    After posting the above comment, I came across

    I suggest everyone check it out. It was written by someone very much “in the know” about what was really going on in terms of searching for Bin Ladin, even BEFORE 9/11.

    I particularly like the comment “Why didn’t we think of that” contained in the above article/column



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