The Macho Democrat
Tomasky, Michael, Newsweek
Byline: Michael Tomasky; Tomasky is a NEWSWEEK/Daily Beast special correspondent.
Obama looks unbeatable now--but the GOP sees weak spots
When presidential campaigns hit crunch time, both sides reach for their most visceral arguments. For liberals, it's the Supreme Court: Yes, Mondale-Dukakis-Gore-Kerry is bland and dissatisfying, but think of the court! For conservatives, it's the people in the world who want to do America harm, and the longtime Republican conviction, going back at least to the early 1950s "Who Lost China?" debate, that those feeble Democrats won't keep America safe.
The actual record is more complicated--hawkish Democratic presidents marched us into the Vietnam tragedy, while a Republican one, Ronald Reagan, transformed himself by 1986 into one of the doviest presidents of the 20th century. But the brands are hard-wired into both parties' DNA, with some justification, and nearly every Republican politician at some point makes the charge.
But now, the killing of Osama bin Laden is changing this equation dramatically. Alleged Muslim Barack Obama did in two and a half years what Bush couldn't do in seven and a half. It wasn't just the result. The nature of the operation is still breathtaking, weeks later, and the risk Obama took, which he conveyed with masterful cool in his 60 Minutes interview, is mind-blowing (imagine if bin Laden hadn't been there!). You can call the president who oversaw the operation many things, but weak isn't one of them.
Watching some Republicans' first stabs at responding to the event was both sad and hilarious. Some were gracious (even Dick Cheney), but the propaganda machine and its envoys cranked out the usual bluster. They tried the this-proves-that-torture-works argument, pinned to a slender reed involving a man named Abu Faraj al-Libi, but the known facts don't support the contention that torture played a major role. Then Bush administration torture-policy architect John Yoo played against type by asserting that it was cowardly to kill bin Laden rather than taking him alive. Things finally reached self-parody when Andrew Card of the Bush White House (the one that declared "Mission Accomplished" in Iraq roughly 4,200 fatalities ago) snarked that Obama was pounding his chest too much. …