Nice job, Mr. President. As of now, you stand poised between the morass in Libya and the impressive success of the strike at Osama bin Laden, which almost makes you seem like two different people.
In Libya, you attempted to “lead from behind.” With bin Laden, you were all forward motion. In Libya, you were pushed into the fray by external parties and tried to seem overly reticent. With bin Laden, it was you who provided the impetus.
With bin Laden, the objective was perfectly clear and the use of force clearly geared to it. In Libya, the objective wasn’t distinct, and when it was, you backed away from the troop commitment needed to make it all happen.
In Libya, it was all about coalitions, which were as large as was possible, and seemed to overwhelm the objective itself. The idea was that the coalition gave the mission legitimacy, which it otherwise would be lacking. With the strike at bin Laden, there was none of this stuff, just the belief that success is its own justification.
With Libya, the mission was no sooner announced than you began talking about how small America’s part was, how soon we would leave, and how we were a small, very small, part of the process. With the attack on bin Laden, it was like a Toby Keith ballad, “USA all the way.”
“Let’s be clear: This is an AMERICAN victory,” said the Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin, “a triumph shared by two presidents and a magnificent accomplishment for all the military and intelligence officials who worked to see this day.”
Taking the bin Laden route could revive that old species, the seemingly extinct liberal hawk. Back in their great days, it was legal for Democrats to be neocons and most of them were.
Interventionists before World War II included New Dealers, bankers and captains of industry, while most isolationists were socialists, pacifists and the more extreme right-wing cranks.
Democrats Hubert Humphrey and Scoop Jackson were anti-Communists. John F. Kennedy was to the right of Nixon and Eisenhower on foreign policy. Franklin D. Roosevelt may have said “I hate war” — but he didn’t hate it so much that he couldn’t wage it with vigor.
The day after Pearl Harbor, FDR went before Congress and said “the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory.” Democrats today should use this kind of language again.
A lot depends, President Barack Obama, on what you do now. If you become Reaganesque, you could get a permanent boost that carries you though 2012 and beyond. If you revert to Jimmy Carter, the high poll numbers could fade fairly fast.
By the way, if you really want to put a quick end to the birthers, just keep on acting like an American president. Succeed, and no one would care if you did come from Kenya. It’s your call, sir. Good luck.
Examiner columnist Noemie Emery is a contributing editor to The Weekly Standard and author of “Great Expectations: The Troubled Lives of Political Families.”