Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Way Back When "Politicizing" Terrorist Deaths Was OK

by Simon Maloy/Media Matters

Perusing the political media these days you can't help but notice the hand-wringing consensus that the Obama administration is running a risk by "politicizing" the death of Osama bin Laden. Foreign policy achievements, we're told, are somehow sacrosanct and shouldn't be sullied by the taint of electioneering.
The president, according to McClatchy, is in "a roiling dispute between his re-election campaign and Republicans, who accuse Obama of politicizing a unifying event by taking credit for ordering the raid that got bin Laden." The ever-eager Fox News reports that "President Obama faced mounting criticism Tuesday for allegedly politicizing the anniversary of Usama bin Laden's death, with Sen. John McCain scolding the commander-in-chief and former New York Gov. George Pataki going so far as to call on Obama to apologize."
It would be nice if the press, when wrestling with this narrative, could dive deep into their memories and travel all the way back to June 2006, when the government of Iraq announced that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the head of Al Qaeda in Iraq, had been killed in an airstrike. The Bush White House and the Republican Congressional majority, facing terrible poll numbers and an angry electorate, were ecstaticat the news that one of the world's most wanted terrorists had met his end at American hands and immediately set to work politicizing his death.
The New York Times reported on June 13, 2006:
It came as Republicans began a new effort to use last week's events to turn the war to their political advantage after months of anxiety, and to sharpen attacks against Democrats. On Monday night, the president's top political strategist, Karl Rove, told supporters in New Hampshire that if the Democrats had their way, Iraq would fall to terrorists and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi would not have been killed.
"When it gets tough, and when it gets difficult, they fall back on that party's old pattern of cutting and running," Mr. Rove said at a state Republican Party gathering in Manchester.
Rove (who is now busily and dishonestly trying to diminish the Bin Laden raid) was delivering a message that synced nicely with the House Republican strategy (elucidated in a confidential memoprepared by John Boehner) to use Zarqawi's death to draw "a portrait of contrasts between Republicans and Democrats with regard to one of the most important political issues of our era."
Per the memo:
As a result of our efforts during this debate, Americans will recognize that on the issue of national security, they have a clear choice between a Republican Party aware of the stakes and dedicated to victory, versus a Democrat Party without a coherent national security policy that sheepishly dismisses the challenges America faces in a post- 9/11 world.
Of course, even if there were no high-profile example of Republicans "spiking the football" over the death of a terrorist, are we really to believe they wouldn't have done exactly that had he been killed under Bush's watch?
So please: before we lend credence to all the pearl-clutching bluster over "politicizing" the death of a terrorist, let's pay due respect to recent history and common sense.
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