The Republicans Can’t Handle the Truth About Bin Laden

By Bob Cesca: Republicans continuously get it wrong about terrorism and national security issues.

President Barack Obama listens during one in a...

President Barack Obama listens during one in a series of meetings discussing the mission against Osama bin Laden, in the Situation Room of the White House, May 1, 2011. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Wait. Correction.

They get it wrong about everything, actually. The environment, the economy, women’s issues, race, government regulation, comedy (as I’ve written here lately) — you name it, they’re wildly off base about it. But specifically, today, let’s look at this week’s Republican Freakout. It’s about a commercial from the president’s campaign, featuring President Clinton discussing the killing of Bin Laden as a successful and decisive endeavor by the president.

It’s not only a strong commercial, but the president should absolutely feature this as one of many first term successes. The most wanted terrorist in the world — the man responsible for September 11 and other attacks against the United States and its allies — was killed exactly a year ago in a precision raid under the close supervision of President Obama and his national security team. The event brought some sort of closure to a long, dark ride through a misguided war against terrorism (not to mention some closure for Bin Laden’s many victims).

And just over two years into his first term, President Obama, who many Republicans mistakenly caricaturized as a weak and wimpy commander-in-chief, was able to achieve something that eluded the tough-talking roid-raging Bush team for eight years. Not only that, but both mainstream and radical conservatives alike have tried to paint President Obama himself as a Muslim terrorist using conspiracy theories and a wide variety of attacks like the ongoing dog-whistle conflation of “Osama” and “Obama,” the pejorative use of the president’s middle name, the slackjawed Birther nonsense and the “pals around with domestic terrorists” line from Sarah Palin and others.

President Obama was able to achieve a victory the Republicans firmly believed only they were capable of achieving. Bin Laden was shot in the head by a Navy SEAL under orders from Barack Obama. This alleged terrorist sleeper cell in the White House has killed or captured most of al-Qaeda, killed Bin Laden, participated in the effort that brought down (and eventually killed) Muammar Gaddafi, and has essentially won the so-called “war against terror” using none of the fearmongering and scare-tactics indicative of the Republican right.

So hell yes, the president should be using this in the campaign. Wouldn’t you?

Mitt Romney and a gaggle of other Republicans evidently would not. Here’s John McCain, for example:

“Shame on Barack Obama for diminishing the memory of September 11th and the killing of Osama bin Laden by turning it into a cheap political attack ad. This is the same President who once criticized Hillary Clinton for invoking bin Laden ‘to score political points.’”

Yeah, about that. Here’s a video…

And four years later, in 2008, during his campaign for president, not only did McCain and Palin invoke 9/11 and Bin Laden countless times, but at McCain’s nominating convention there was this:

Of course there’s major difference between these videos and the innocuous Obama campaign commercial featuring President Clinton.

When McCain noted that President Obama criticized Hillary Clinton’s “invoking on Bin Laden,” McCain was right. And so did I at the time. But here’s the big difference: the president isn’t using Bin Laden to scare us. The Republicans only ever used 9/11, Bin Laden and terrorism to scare people into voting for them. This is fearmongering. It’s the flagrant exploitation of both a tragedy and the threat of an on-the-loose maniac to trick voters into supporting Republican policies for no other reason than to ameliorate their irrational fear.

The president, on the other hand, isn’t telling us to be afraid. He’s telling us that we can rest assured knowing that he’s capable of doing the job with competence and a little bit of “cool” — he’s also debunking the spindly possibly-Muslim cartoon character the Republicans have carefully constructed since whenever.

Shocking, isn’t it, how the Republicans don’t understand the distinction between noting a victory and scaring Americans into supporting them. Maybe if they had been more focused on actually getting Bin Laden, and not on shoehorning the words “September 11th” into every campaign commercial and stump speech, they might have actually succeeded in the effort.

Conversely, the president has barely (to a fault) mentioned the Bin Laden killing, and I can think of very few if any occasions when the president has mentioned 9/11 — nowhere near the ooga-booga you’ll-die-without-us Tourette’s-like frequency of Bush, Giuliani, Cheney, McCain, Romney and the Republicans. Hell, one of the biggest flaws of the president and his team is they’re frustratingly maladroit when it comes to ballyhooing their own successes.

So regarding the campaign commercial, yes — more like that, please. It’s an important distinction that’s crying out to be defined: while the Republicans might be good at coming up with scary bumper sticker slogans, the Obama team can actually do the job.

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