NASCAR fans and pundits call it silly season; that time of year where drivers and crew chiefs and deep pockets jockey for position and betray loyalties. Political campaigns have one also, and America is in the throes of it now. Economics and the jobs picture will garner attention in the Middle later this week; for now, let’s talk about national security…and perception. History is written by the winners, but the winners are often decided by the best storytellers. In today’s politics, rewriting the story is the only key to victory, and when the Democrat in the White House is doing well on national security, the conservative storytellers have to be at the top of their game.
Mitt Romney’s storytellers are the best, not surprisingly, that money can buy. The other day, Romney’s writers fed him a fantastic line;
Even Jimmy Carter would have ordered the Bin Laden raid.
At once, the men behind the mannequin reinforced the mythology of Jimmy the Peanut Farmer, minimized the role and responsibility of Commander in Chief, and effectively misplaced all of the important facts of the Abbottabad raid. Somewhere, Karl Rove is a NASA wife circa 1960; happy, thrilled, and proud. The Texas Turd Blossom operates under the commandment that “Thou shall attack thy opponent’s strength.” Jimmy Carter faced the prospect of 52 Americans held hostage by militants inside the capital city of a large country. He called on a brand new unit of the U.S. Army to plan and execute a complex and daring rescue mission. In what was (to public knowledge anyway), Delta Force’s first mission, Murphy’s Law prevailed. Everything that could go wrong did, and at the most inopportune moment. Eventually, the commanders on the ground asked for permission to abort, and the President agreed.
History is written by the winners, and Jimmy Carter took responsibility for the failure of the mission, and his inability to bring the crisis to a conclusion while in office. Mitt Romney, who has led a life devoid of most of the crisis triggers that 99% of Americans face, managed to say that “Even Jimmy…” would order the raid. The question voters have to decide is, would Mitt order the raid? And the problem, the raging elephant in the room for conservatives, is that the previous Republican president never got within striking distance of that decision. He talked about it, he made cowboy references to it, then he deployed 180,000 U.S. troops in the wrong country and forgot about it.
President Obama, to the surprise (and pleasure) of many conservative friends and relatives of mine, gave the order. But before he gave the order, he gave orders to recommit forces to the path that would make the raid possible. That Candidate Obama pledged to focus on destroying Al Qaeda and Bin Laden is indisputable; that he redeployed assets to accomplish that pledge is beyond debate; that he was successful in fulfilling that promise is settled history. Neptune’s Spear was a success, and a success demanded by almost all Americans.
Even Mitt Romney can see that.
The Rational Middle is listening…