During ABC's This Week yesterday, there was an unfortunate back and forth - several times in fact - in which PBS' Gwen Ifill and ABC's Jonathan Karl seemed to criticize the President, and his surrogates, for noting that President Obama finally captured Osama bin Laden. (Tapper simply made a quick jest about the fact that the campaign was obviously pushing the issue, he's done good reporting on this - the other two seemed actually critical of the campaign's decision.)
This was disturbing on numerous levels.
First, the Romney campaign has been mocking the President for a while on this point, suggesting that the President has nothing to be proud of (because Romney thinks President's don't matter during wartime, the military runs itself - that admission is a frightening window into a future Romney administration). So it's disturbing that the media would play into a false Romney talking point.
Second, I'm disturbed because capturing and killing Osama bin Laden was a huge deal. It is clearly on a par with saving the economy from a Great Depression and passing health care reform. And at the very least, it's easily the President's number one foreign policy victory.
So why exactly are Democrats supposed to now stop talking about the President's number one foreign policy victory?
It's not entirely clear. Read on:
WESLEY CLARK: I do disagree, because I think this is a consistent Republican narrative that Democrats are soft on defense, but we've a Democratic president who's been strongest on national security. He's completely taken the foreign policy and national security argument away from the other side.
He reinforced in Afghanistan. He got us responsibly out of Iraq. We took Osama bin Laden. He's been firm. He's been visionary. He's been tough. He's decisive.
GWEN IFILL: Not much immediately. But, you know, I find it really interesting, Jake, that a week ago we were post-convention and we were completely consumed with what we talked about at those conventions, not foreign policy, not at either convention, unless you count every Democrat talking about Osama bin Laden. Other than that...
JAKE TAPPER: You caught that?
IFILL: ... nobody really -- I picked up on that. I picked up on that.
CLARK: Actually, I don't think we are weaker. I think the whole point of going into Afghanistan in 2001, which President George W. Bush articulated, was Osama bin Laden, wanted dead or alive. And it was Barack Obama who really put the pressure on and got him.Why exactly should Democrats be "uncomfortable," at a political convention for the upcoming election, talking about our number one foreign policy success, when that is exactly what conventions are about, talking about the policy successes of the nominee?
IFILL: There it goes again. Once again, Osama bin Laden.
CLARK: But I think it's a huge -- it was a huge marker. It was a presidential decision in the -- and he was very much aware of President Carter's problem with Desert One. And he did against the advice...
JONATHAN KARL: Are you at all uncomfortable, though, with how political that -- I mean, that at the -- at the national political convention, that this military operation is used as a -- as a political talking point over and over again?
CLARK: But here's the -- here's the...
KARL: The vice president talking about putting him on bumper stickers?
CLARK: We've had, since the Vietnam War, the consistent refrain has been Republicans are the daddy party, Democrats are the mommy party, Republicans are strong, robust, Democrats are soft and weak and want to negotiate, want to apologize. It's simply not true.
We're stronger. We're safer. Barack Obama has been a very robust, muscular -- has a very robust, muscular foreign policy. And as George said earlier, what's happened in the Middle East has lots of factors and lots of causes underneath. It has nothing to do with rhetoric from Washington.
Funny how the Republican bear hug of September 11, going so far as to hold their convention in NYC in 2004, after they had berated Democrats for holding their convention in NYC in the 90s, didn't bother the media. It didn't bother them when Rudy "A noun, a verb, and September 11" Giuliani incessantly brought up 9/11, whether to help his own personal business or his party (or both). More from the Washington Post, back in 2004:
Republican officials said Sunday that they plan to make Sept. 11 a focus of the week in a convention that is also intended to soften some of the party's ideological edges and broaden Bush's appeal to the political middle.Then there was the Bush campaign ad campaign around September 11.
"How you approach the world after September 11th is a factor in this election," Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie said at a lunch with reporters Sunday. Noting that Democrats at their convention last month also spoke about the attacks, Gillespie said ignoring them would be like "a convention in 1864 that didn't take into account the Civil War."
President Bush's day-old reelection advertising campaign generated criticism and controversy yesterday, as relatives of the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist strikes charged that television commercials using images from the attacks were exploiting the tragedy for political gain.But when Democrats mention their number one foreign policy success when talking about whether their president has, or has not, been a foreign policy success, Democrats are very bad people who must be mocked and silenced.
I'm not entirely sure why Ifill and Karl find this objectionable. But for a lot of us, killing Osama bin Laden was a huge deal. Emotionally, for starters. And you'd better believe that when George Bush called off the hunt for bin Laden only six months after September 11, and Barack Obama then caught the bastard, Democrats are going to talk about it. And they should.
What other top successes of the Obama administration is President Obama not permitted to talk about when asked about whether his administration was a success?
And finally, just imagine what the Republicans would have done had they caught bin Laden. We'd never hear the end of it for the next 30 years. And the media would say nothing about it.
PS I've noticed that often when I post any media criticism I get some responses about how all journalists suck. They don't. And Tapper, in particular, has been excellent over the years. I've worked with him a long time, he's one of the good guys in terms of really doing his job well and accurately. That doesn't mean we can't from time to time post a critique when things go south. It also doesn't mean that the folks we're critiquing are bad people, or even bad journalists. Some are. Many aren't. Remember: Conservatives want to destroy the media, liberals simply want it to do its job.