It has been a while hasn’t it? Thanks to John for doing a bang up job keeping things going and flowing while I spun my wheels, got in a tizzy and just in general had a series of meltdowns. But its not really all about me is it? There’s news to rejoice of course. Why? Well haven’t you been paying attention to this spectacular media cycle the Obama Administration is having? After maintaining near perfect continuity with the Bush Administration policies on extraordinary rendition, indefinite detainment of “terror suspects” in Quantanamo Bay prison and applying the principles of the “successful” Iraqi surge to the battlefield in Afghanistan our current Administration was rewarded (a few weeks ago) with a foiled multinational terrorism plot, involving planes no less! Yep, our President got the credit he deserves for keeping us safe these past few years, and it was gratifying to see his party receive a windfall at the polls a few weeks ago.
Hmmmm? What? Wait, what’s that you say? You’re telling me that the 24 hour news media didn’t spend the final week of the midterm elections telling voters about the nation’s “near miss” of a major chemical or biological attack? Voters weren’t lectured that, despite criticisms from “the left,” the Obama Administration’s zealous prosecution of the Global War On Terror (GWOT!) had “kept this country safe” in the face of an “ever present threat of terrorism?” Well that seems just about impossible. Sure I’ve been out of the loop in recent weeks, but I know how our political discourse about national security works and this sort of almost-attack always benefits the party in power. Its just how it is.
Well now I’m confused. If you remember, these kinds of foiled terrorism plots provided the strongest evidence for Bush apologists’ favorite defense of the Administration. Specifically, the notion that “Bush kept us safe for the last 8 years.” Indeed, there’s a reason the white house’s political strategists kept repeating (and repeating, and repeating) this claim In the final days of the Bush presidency, it was borne out in the poll numbers. Even at the nadir of his popularity, most Americans remained convinced that the Bush Administration’s national security record was stellar, most Americans believed he had “kept the country safe.” If we accepted the notion of an “ever present terrorist threat” where was the media to stand and applaud the Obama Administration’s successful security efforts?
Its moments like these when conservative charges that we have a “liberal media” make me laugh and then weep and then descend into ugly-cry sobs. But we’re dealing with more than the Daily Howler’s argument that Democrats are simply not allowed to be portrayed as tough on national security, no matter how many Chinese Muslims they keep within an offshore military prison. The media’s complete silence on the Obama Administration’s successful security record points to the ways in which the politics of “national security” are really about the production of the idea of the President as “Commander in Chief.” While conservatives have been unable to make their accusations of Obama’s secret Muslim faith stick amongst the majority of Americans, they seem to have effectively delinked President Obama from the nation’s security apparatus in the minds of the American people.
Part of the problem is that other Democrats have not been willing to participate in the security discourse echo chamber. I’ve never heard Harry Reid, Barbara Boxer, Nancy Pelosi or Steny Hoyer credit the Administration for “keeping us safe” these past two years. When security Dems do drop the president and occasional bone they (with almost a question in their voice) credit “this Administration’s national security record.” The visceral impact of these half hearted endorsements pale in comparison to the unapologetic (almost tearful) delivery Republicans gave when declaring of Bush II that “this President has kept us safe.”
The GOP seems to have mastered the ability to tap cheese, cheese that makes our eyes roll when we watch it mocked for irony on Jon Stewart, cheese that makes us laugh as Colbert parodies it, but cheese that shows up in polling numbers for Republicans and not for Democrats. What is it about Democrats that they aren’t willing to participate in positive meme making about this President when it comes to national security? Thoughts?