Obama Foreign Policy Not Optimal
Mitt Romney may have been too polite in Monday night’s presidential debate to critique the Obama administration’s mishandling of the Benghazi terrorist attack, but I’m not.
Immediately after presidential candidate and potential Commander-in-Chief Romney opined on the Libya attacks last month, Democrats tripped all over themselves to condemn him for opening his mouth:
Watchblog.com declared, “Republicans Have Embarrassed Themselves Over Benghazi.”
OpEd News announced, “Mendacious Mitt Politicizes Benghazi.”
Joan Walsh bemoaned “Benghazi madness,” which she labeled “the latest right-wing conspiracy porn.”
Oh, please. Claiming that the other side is politicizing an issue your side has bungled is the last refuge of a political scoundrel. Democrats are masters of this ploy, as evidenced by other clichés they employ with abandon, such as accusing the opposition of “going on a fishing expedition,” “conducting a witch hunt,” or “mudslinging.”
The Benghazi attack is an issue being dealt with by politicians in the political arena, for which Americans will be deciding whether to hold political parties responsible in an upcoming election. Saying that Republicans are politicizing Benghazi is like saying that Weight Watchers is “calorizing” the weight loss process. Of course Republicans are politicizing the Benghazi assassination. How could one even discuss Benghazi without politicizing it—through interpretive dance?
Obama deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter, the most frequent abuser of the politicization charge, slandered Romney by implying that he was hoping for a foreign policy disaster like the Iranian hostage crisis to help him win the election. Why can’t we take Cutter’s periodic flimsy accusations against Romney as a model and announce that every Democratic attack is merely “cutterizing” the issues?
Here’s something that is genuinely politicizing the Benghazi issue: appearing on a late-night comedy show and announcing that the assassination of the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other American personnel is “not optimal.” Obama has tried to downplay the severity of this crisis and its causal roots in his administration’s strategic blunders and tactical failures in the Middle East, so he’s loath to summon the proper outrage—which Romney has displayed in droves—over this historic attack. Calculating the precise tone that will allow Americans to believe he’s upset, without escalating the issue to the level of severity it warrants, is politicizing the issue.
As Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler noted, “For political reasons, it certainly was in the White House’s interests to not portray the attack as a terrorist incident, especially one that took place on the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.” Obama’s clinical, detached answer on Jon Stewart’s show fit this narrative perfectly.
Here’s something else that’s politicizing the issue: excoriating Romney for rushing to judgment and “shooting from the hip” about the administration’s role in the incident, while jumping to the conclusion that the attacks were caused by an online video and not a coordinated assault.
If Commanders-in-Chief are supposed to be measured and to reserve judgment till facts are known, why did the administration send U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice out on five talk shows mere days after the attacks to insist that the protests were instigated by “The Innocence of Muslims,” a claim that contradicts the facts?
The Benghazi cover-up may not be a case of “What did the president know and when did he know it?” but “What did the president’s lackeys say and when did they open their yappers?”
But what makes the charge that Republicans are politicizing Benghazi especially preposterous is that it ignores that the GOP is the party that has traditionally called for stronger military and security operations, waged a more aggressive war against Islamic terrorism, and criticized Western military involvement in the Libyan protests.
It would be one thing if conservatives feigned outrage over Obama’s handling of wind farm permits or fuel efficiency standards. That would be a bit rich. But if anything, going overboard on military precautions is the GOP’s métier. So I think most Americans accept that Republicans are genuinely concerned about attacks and protests in Libya, Egypt, and Yemen, three countries that had supposedly been cleansed by the Arab Spring conservatives were vocally skeptical about last year.
Cutter insists that we can’t talk about what happened in Benghazi, because there’s an ongoing investigation that will uncover all the facts—no doubt safely after the presidential election has concluded. Heaven forfend that the challenger critique the incumbent’s handling of the incident and offer a contrasting approach to governing. God forbid that voters be allowed to use an ongoing crisis to choose between two politicians’ vastly different approaches to foreign policy.
Previously published in modified form at Red Alert Politics