Here’s a great column by Krauthammer, as usual, on Obama’s handling of the Libya attack situation. Great tactical analysis and great tactical recommendations.
But Krauthammer misses the bigger strategic point, the real “narrative” of Obama’s failure (and inherent weakness) on this issue.
It’s not just that this Administration appeared to have covered up an incredibly weak, confused and inept handling of a terrible situation. The portion of the electorate paying attention to this issue knows that already. Republicans want Romney to hammer it home; Democrats want Obama to escape being technically pinned with the loss. For those of you who understand baseball, Democrats are willing to concede that Obama may have had a rough start and given up a few runs, but they are hoping that Hillary or James Clapper or someone else takes the formal “loss” in the box score.
As I said, that misses the point. What Romney needs to do in order to reach those casually attentive voters in the middle who are not paying close attention to the ins-and-outs of this issue is to present it as follows:
He needs to re-cap the event and the Administration’s failures and contradictions (the repeated references to the video by Susan Rice on the Sunday talk shows, Jay Carney’s unwillingness to be straightforward, and Obama himself at the UN talking about the video), but an historical re-cap is not the main thrust at this point. What matters, Romney needs to emphasize, is what the President had not done since:
– He has not addressed the nation in a prime-time speech and elevated this incident to a level of national outrage, which it should be.
– He has not put forth a plan as to how we’re going to avenge our countrymen’s deaths
– He has not put the terror world on notice that deadly retribution is coming, and quickly
– He has ignored the matter the same way that President Clinton ignored the USS Cole attack
– He has not told the truth about al Qaeda, claiming that they are ‘back on their heels’ after the bin Laden raid and by implication, that his policies have removed the al Qaeda threat to America
In short, he has not shown Presidential leadership. He has not stood up for the American people. He has not let the world know that we’re not going to stand for this. He is, at heart, an apologist for America, more concerned with appeasement than promoting and maintaining American Exceptionalism.
“Why not, Mr. President? When can we expect you to act and speak out on our behalf? Tomorrow, now that I’ve pointed out your failings this evening? When, Mr. President? We’re waiting for leadership. We’re outraged about what happened, but you give the impression that you’d rather have this whole matter go away, because it’s uncomfortable or embarrassing to you.”
It’s a forward-looking Presidential leadership issue, not a backwards-looking “Who-said-what-when” issue. Obama is no doubt preparing his debate defenses and answers for a “Who-said-what-when” attack.
But he has no defense for the “lack-of-Presidential-leadership” attack, because there is no defense. It’s true, and if that line of attack is properly utilized by Romney (not too heavy-handed, not too arrogant or too personal, just factual and that Obama’s actions are a result of a too-deeply-ingrained non-America-first belief system), voters will see that quite clearly.
And that’s another legitimate reason why Romney will be a better President than Obama, and Romney needs to frame this Libya issue in those terms., so all voters–keenly-attentive and barely-informed alike–can see that clearly.