Today’s Courier Herald Column:
President Barack Obama secretly flew to Afghanistan this week to address our country and theirs regarding the ongoing wartime operations there as well as frame our future military involvement overseas. The speech just happened to coincide with the anniversary of the killing of Osama Bin Laden.
Even before the wheels of Air Force One touched down on foreign soil, the politicization of killing Bin Laden had many pundits and politicians on the right crying foul. Many Republicans attempted to throw a flag for excessive celebration.
Much of the early week’s political talk took issue with Obama’s use of killing Bin Laden in an ad as well as asserting that Mitt Romney wouldn’t have made the call to send Seal Team 6 into Pakistan to bring justice to the mastermind of 9/11. If that was spiking the football, then the victory lap the President took in Afghanistan was punctuated was akin to signing it, throwing the ball into the stands and blowing a kiss as one of my left leaning friends gingerly goaded on Facebook.
Republicans using their air time to complain about this are wasting their time and bordering on sour grapes. The one thing that those complaining about end zone dances usually have in common is that they’ve just watched the other team score. On them.
The simple fact is both Republicans and Democrats wanted Bin Laden. America got him. The Democrats didn’t, and the Republicans didn’t. The country did.
The effort took the work of both Presidents Bush and Obama, and thousands who dutifully served this country under each. Obama, however, was the one at 1600 Avenue when the actionable intelligence arrived as to Bin Laden’s location. He gets to claim credit, and celebrate any way he wants. The public is more than capable of judging whether his use of the facts in campaign ads is over the top. Politicians and pundits are not needed for color commentary on the replay.
Republicans spending time on this detracts from public discussion on issues that will be relevant to whomever is in the office beyond January 2013. There is no need to have a national debate on how the second anniversary of Bin Laden’s death should be celebrated.
Republicans must be reminded early and often that this election is about the economy and internalize James Carville’s mantra for Bill Clinton: It’s the economy stupid.
Even on this core issue, Republicans are using the wrong playbook. There are definite signs within the economy that stabilization from the financial collapse of 2008 has occurred in many areas, with other areas showing tangible improvement. Too many Republicans wish to deny this fact, as if acknowledging that the country’s economic foundations are not in a death spiral cedes the economic issue. It does not.
Republicans should instead point to the fact that most of the stabilization has occurred since they took control of the House and gained enough votes in the Senate to filibuster bills effectively. While gridlock is not the chosen policy of most voters, the term “uncertainty” is no longer in the lede of most stories on the economy. For businesses and investors choosing how to place their bets, the gridlock of the last year and a half has provided a much greater sense of stability than the new regulation/policy/spending proposal that was the ever present business climate during Obama’s first two years.
Republicans should not sell gridlock either, but should present a clear, concise policy of tax and spending reform that will move the country from two years of flat lined stability into a new phase of long term economic growth. Without the power of incumbency, the time allotted for a Presidential candidate to communicate this to the media is limited. Whining about spiking a football is either a sign of misplaced priorities or that there is no actual clear, concise plan to present as an alternative.
Voters in November won’t be choosing who gets to kill Bin Laden again. They will get to choose the direction that government trends with respect to tax and economic policies. Republicans need to bury the Bin Laden carping as deep as Bin Laden is buried himself, and get on with finalizing and articulating the contrast of what Republican leadership would look like on issues that matter.