SAN DIEGO, May 6, 2011 —In the shadow of the biggest news story since 9/11, a small group of Republican candidates held their first 2012 presidential debate yesterday in Greenville, South Carolina. Credit was given to President Obama for taking out Osama bin Laden, and the credit is deserved.
It is right that Republicans offer our president generous praise for a difficult and effective decision. Conservatives need to be consistent when talking about the war on terror, or any other issue. In doing so, they will distinguish themselves from many liberals. While much of the country did rally behind George Bush after 9/11, most liberal pundits and politicians quickly turned against him, and wouldn’t have given him credit if he had cured leukemia.
But, even as the candidates uttered obligatory kudos to Obama, swift qualifications were placed on the table like a side dish of healthy, necessary vegetables:
Rick Santorum said, “If you look at what Obama has done right, it has always been a continuation of Bush policies…”
Newcomer Herman Cain, (former CEO of Godfather’s Pizza) said, “One great decision doth not a great president make.”
Such qualified praise will have no negative effect on Obama as the GOP contenders warm up in the bullpen. Although he will have much to answer for if the economy isn’t better by November 2012, publicists and handlers have a handy-dandy comeback for anyone who challenges the president’s foreign policy. “Excuse me. President Obama got Osama bin Laden.” End of discussion!
Brace yourselves. We’ll be hearing this line more often than 2004 candidate John Kerry reminded us with every waking breath that he served in Vietnam. After all, repetitive chants and mantras, if not from his own campaign headquarters, at least from media pundits, won Obama’s first term. The primary talking points were, “Hope and change,” “Yes we can,” and “If you don’t vote for this man, you are a racist.”
Nothing else mattered. If you objected to Obama’s association with self-professed terrorist Bill Ayers, you were a racist. If you didn’t like his response to Joe the Plumber about “sharing the wealth,” you were a racist. If you objected to his record on the Illinois Infant Protection Act, you were a racist.
So it will be in the months ahead with foreign policy. Obama’s handlers and supporters will decide that what worked before can work again. If anyone reminds us that Obama sought to have talks with the evil Holocaust denier, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, they will be reminded that Obama got bin Laden. If a Republican candidate complains about Obama apologizing for America while speaking in Egypt, he will be reminded that Obama got bin Laden. If it is pointed out that Obama displays an ignorance of Middle East affairs by pressuring Israel to make deals with terrorists who want to kill her, they will hear, “Yes, well, you’re talking about the man who took out Osama bin Laden.”
Sadly, it may be time for conservatives to develop a few cheap, but effective witticisms of their own. Cain might have been on to something with, “One great decision doth not a great president make.” Certainly the candidate offered profound elaboration, but make no mistake: His opinion last night of Obama’s foreign policy is going to be remembered with that one line. Unfortuately, this particular phrase is not likely to neutralize non-stop Obama victory laps. The death of Osama bin Laden has been anticipated for far too long. Still, the brief, but well-thought out response serves as a good example, and can perhaps inspire some alternate creativity. With great regret, we may need to admit that sound bites can only be defeated with other sound bites. In that vein, a few sample suggestions are offered to my fellow conservatives:
When asked about abortion, Republican candidates can say, “I believe in the rights of all women, including baby women.”
When asked about same-sex lifestyles, they can say, “I respect your opinion about sexuality even though I happen to disagree with it. Are you tolerant of my beliefs?”
If finding themselves in a discussion with someone like Joe Biden, who in his 2008 debate with Sarah Palin talked about the redistribution of wealth by chirping, “In my neighborhood, Scranton… we don’t call that redistribution, we call that fairness,” the GOP contender can reply, “Really? Where I come from, we call that stealing.”
When asked if it is wrong to say we are at war with Militant Islam, they can reply, “Newsflash: Militant Islam has declared war on us. What we ourselves wish to declare is irrelevant.”
Maybe we long for a time when politicians no longer feel the need to produce quick sound bites for pea brains, and can instead actually discuss an issue with all its depth and nuance. But at the expense of sounding like Marlon Brando in The Godfather, that day may never come. In the meantime, accept these raspy responses as a gift. If it becomes an offer Republican candidates choose to refuse, their political careers will show about as much wisdom as Fredo’s fishing trip.
Bob Siegel is a weekend radio talk show host on KCBQ and columnist. Details of his show can be found at www.bobsiegel.net. Comments to posts are discussed by Bob over the air where anyone is free to call in and respond/debate. Call in toll free number: 1-888-344-1170. Read more Forbidden Table Talk in The Washington Times Communities.
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