A Giant Leap for Richard Nixon

Daily Best of the Web   —   Posted on May 2, 2012

The following is an excerpt from OpinionJournal.com’s “Best of the Web” written by the editor, James Taranto.

A Giant Leap for Richard Nixon
Imagine if President Nixon had decided to base his 1972 re-election campaign on the boast that he landed on the moon. His predecessors tried and failed for eight years. It wasn’t an easy decision–what if something went wrong? But that’s why you hire a president, to make those gutsy calls. Which path would George McGovern have taken?

That’s analogous to President Obama’s effort to campaign on the killing of Osama bin Laden. His absurd braggadocio is turning one of the few successes to occur under his leadership into a political liability.

Last week the Obama campaign released an advertisement featuring Bill Clinton (the president who actually did pass up opportunities to get bin Laden) praising Obama’s leadership and suggesting that Mitt Romney would have let bin Laden go. Nonsense, Romney replied: “Even Jimmy Carter would have given that order,” the New York Times quotes him as saying. (James Fallows, who worked in the Carter White House, grudgingly confirms Romney’s surmise.)

The Weekly Standard has video of Obama using the occasion of a joint press conference with Japan’s prime minister to double down on this silly taunt:

“I’d just recommend that everybody take a look at people’s previous statements in terms of whether they thought it was appropriate to go into Pakistan and to take out bin Laden,” Obama said, obviously taking a shot at Romney. “I assume that people meant what they said when they said it. And that’s been at least my practice. I said that I would go after bin Laden if we had a clear shot at him–and I did. If there are others who have said one thing and now suggest they would do something else, then I’d go ahead and let them explain it.”

In a Washington Post op-ed, Jose Rodriguez, a CIA veteran and author of the new book “Hard Measures: How Aggressive CIA Actions After 9/11 Saved American Lives,” concedes that Obama “deserves credit for making the right choice.”

But he notes that like the moon landing, the killing of bin Laden was merely the culmination of an effort that predated the incumbent’s arrival in the White House by years: “[Obama’s] administration never would have had the opportunity to do the right thing had it not been for some extraordinary work during the George W. Bush administration.” Rodriguez notes further that “much of that work has been denigrated by Obama as unproductive and contrary to American principles.”

Toby Harnden of London’s Daily Mail reports that some of the Navy SEALs who actually killed bin Laden are criticizing the president for politicizing the raid. “The President and his administration are positioning him as a war president using the SEALs as ammunition,” says Ryan Zinke, the retired Navy commander who led the Team 6 unit and is now a Republican state senator in Montana. “It was predictable.”

“The frustration–or, even anger–within the SEAL community is real, and has been brewing for months,” reports BuzzFeed.com in a piece titled “Will the Navy SEALs Swift Boat Obama?” That’s a reference to the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, the group that in 2004 deflated John Kerry’s claims of Vietnam heroics.

Unlike Kerry’s boasts, though, Obama’s are drawing derision even from fellow left-liberals. Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank writes that Obama’s “nonstop campaigning is looking, well, sleazy–and his ad suggesting that Mitt Romney wouldn’t have killed Osama bin Laden is just the beginning of it.” Puffington Host hostess Arianna Huffington calls the Obama ad “one of the most despicable things you can do”:

Discussing the negative effects of such ads, Arianna said, “It’s also what makes politicians and political leaders act irrationally when it comes to matter [sic] of war, because they’re so afraid to be called wimps that they make decisions which are incredibly destructive to the country. . . .”

But actually when you think about it, Obama would look like anything but a wimp if he had the good sense to let the bin Laden raid speak for himself. By bragging about it incessantly, he comes across as insecure, and weak. ….

Even John McCain is criticizing Obama, the Hill reports:

“I say any president, Jimmy Carter, anybody, any president would have, obviously, under those circumstances, done the same thing. And to now take credit for something that any president would do is indicative of [the kind of] campaign we’re under–we’re–we’re seeing. . . . So all I can say is that this is going to be a very rough campaign,” McCain told Fox News in an interview set to air Monday night. “And I’ve had the great honor of serving in the company of heroes. And, you know the thing about heroes, they don’t brag.” . . .

Last week, McCain issues [sic] a statement denouncing an Obama campaign commercial heralding Bin Laden’s death as “the height of hypocrisy” and accused the president of “a shameless end-zone dance to help himself get reelected.”

“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,” McCain said.

Which leads us to ponder an interesting counterfactual: What if McCain had campaigned against Obama in 2008?

For more “Best of the Web” click here and look for the “Best of the Web Today” link in the middle column below “Today’s Columnists.”