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Painting Success as Failure

May 8th, 2011

Conservatives continue to find more and more ways to criticize Obama for his nailing bin Laden. One of the latest is Andrew Card, Bush’s former Chief of Staff:

SPIEGEL: At the beginning of the war in Iraq, you reassigned many experts. Did President Bush set any priorities higher than the hunt for bin Laden?

Card: He had many top priorities, but I honestly do not believe that the president neglected the hunt for bin Laden. People we moved out were replaced. I think there was a dedicated team whose job it was to wake up every day and say: “Where is Osama bin Laden today?”

SPIEGEL: But now President Obama is the big winner…

Card: I think he has pounded his chest a little too much. He can take pride in it, but he does not need to show it so much.

SPIEGEL: He didn’t appear triumphant while announcing bin Laden’s death.

Card: I thought his statement was subdued, but I think his schedule is not subdued. Personally, I think it is premature to go to Ground Zero, in New York. I think my role model in this would be George H. W. Bush, when the Berlin Wall came down in 1989. It was a day to celebrate, but we did not dance on the Wall.

Wow. Okay, the first thing that stands out is the criticism that Obama “pounded his chest too much,” following up on the general right-wing complaints about Obama’s “narcissism” and hogging all the credit. Here, Card specifically criticizes Obama for going to Ground Zero. I mean, really?

Who here does not remember that, when the “major combat operations” had been “completed” in Iraq in May 2003, Bush famously dressed up in a flight suit and unnecessarily took a fighter jet to an aircraft carrier in a massively staged PR event culminating in a speech in front of a “Mission Accomplished” banner, a banner which the White House arranged but later tried to blame the soldiers for? Especially when Card himself was in the jet that flew in right before Bush, and Bush strutted around in his flight suit and bragged about how he flew the jet himself. The right wing loved that display. And if Bush had captured bin Laden, the right wing would be criticizing him (mildly, of course) only if he didn’t pound his chest about it.

Seriously, had it been Obama on 9/11 and he went to Ground Zero with the bullhorn, right-wingers would have bashed him for “pounding his chest” instead of lionizing it as a defining moment in U.S. history.

Aside from that, we have Card trying to make it look like Bush was intent on capturing bin Laden, despite Bush’s famous “I’m not all that interested in him” statement to reporters. Card is less than convincing when he says he “believes” Bush was dedicated, and he “thinks” they had a team working on it. Card was Chief of Staff; if he wasn’t sure, then it doesn’t sound like it was really a high priority.

Finally, note that Card chose, as his role model of restraint, Bush 41–not Bush 43. I wonder why. In any case, we find conservatives clashing in their criticisms–most right-wingers bash Obama for not going farther in dancing on bin Laden’s desecrated body. No matter what Obama does, it does not matter to these people–it’s always wrong, for some reason or another.

Interesting, John Yoo’s most recent criticism is that bin Laden was killed instead of captured. Despite the fact that he never seemed to voice any concern for Bush’s “dead or alive” policy, and Card mentioned that certainly Bush had no preference.

It will be interesting to see conservatives continuing to pick over the event as time goes on, but one thing remains clear: if they have their way, Obama’s killing of bin Laden will go down in their books as a huge blunder, a failure that made Obama look horrible as a president. The idea being that they want to mitigate, as much as possible, whatever currency, political or otherwise, Obama could take away from the accomplishment.

  1. Troy
    May 8th, 2011 at 14:30 | #1

    >took a fighter jet

    some sort of anti-sub plane actually.

    Lemme just say that May 1, 2003 was one of the weirder days of my life.

    I had been totally against the war and just knew the occupation would be hell for us — my model was the resistance we got trying to occupy Lebanon in the 1980s.

    And then there was President within some weird-ass reality-show staging saying the battle was over.

    Politics today is a joke, Luis. Save your blood pressure, ignore it!

  2. May 9th, 2011 at 18:56 | #2

    Even Condoleezza Rice said that Obama’s visit to Ground Zero was a good step since every president can pay tribute to those who lost their lives on 9/11 and this particular moment required such visit even more.

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