Obama's pirate response foils the right-wing story line
The Pirates lost a double-header yesterday, bowing to the Reds in Cincinnati, and losing their heads to American Navy snipers in the Gulf of Aden. Surely all Americans, spanning the political spectrum, will breathe a sigh of relief today, now that the high-seas crisis is over and the merchant captain is out of harm's way.
Neverthless, within the carping confines of the American right, there surely will be a wee frisson of disappointment. Late last week, conservatives were busy with the usual mockery of President Obama, eagerly anticipating his failure to resolve the Somali pirate standoff in American's failure...But wait, what's this: It turns out that Obama twice signed off on the use of force, at 8 p.m. Friday and 9:20 a.m. Saturday, essentially authorizing Navy SEAL snipers to fire at the pirates whenever the Navy commander judged the captain's life to be in imminent danger. When a pirate was spotted pointing an AK-47 at the captain's back, the kill order was given. End of crisis.
Wasn't Obama, the inexperienced touchy-feely wimp of right-wing caricature, supposed to bow down to the pirates, thereby justifying conservative mockery? Wasn't he supposed to follow their script, and validate their disdain?
Late last week, the right was ready to rock. For instance, on the National Review website, Andrew McCarthy lamented that, under Obama, "pirates and terrorists are better known for their human rights than for their inhuman wrongs." He wondered "whether the naval destroyer on the scene was equipped with Miranda-warning cards" so that the pirates could be read their legal rights. He was also incensed that, last Thursday, Obama declined to answer a press question about the pirate crisis; in his words, "America's commander-in-chief didn't want to talk about the pirates..." (Would he have preferred that Obama take the bring-'em-on macho route and vow to "smoke the pirates out of their holes"? Could he not perhaps see the value of a president staying in low key, so as to avoid ratcheting up the crisis and giving the pirates something to exploit?)
Meanwhile, Rupert Murdoch's Weekly Standard website seized on a remark by Hillary Clinton, about how the administration was "seeking a 21st century response" to piracy in the Indian Ocean. Seth Cropsey, a conservative think-tanker, quickly concluded that a 21st century response, as defined by the Obama team must surely be some form of appeasement. He suggested instead that "special operations missions" and other assertive responses would spark respect for the administration - as opposed to "ignoring direct challenges to the U.S. and packaging such sidelong glances as policy that befits the 21st century."
Meanwhile, the reliably overwrought Victor Davis Hanson wrote on a National Review blog that clearly the liberal wine-and-cheese crowd has long been pro-pirate (huh? it has? when did that happen?) and suggested that pro-pirate sentiment is possibly infecting the Obama team: "In academic circles the last two decades, pirates have been romanticized in a variety of contexts — as in pirates being contrarian individualists, admirable anarchists, Marxist redistributionists, sexually ambiguous, cross-dressing, transgendered libertines, and Lotus-eater-like sensualists, rather than as murderous criminals. Who knows, maybe such esoteric theorizing has filtered down to the U.S. State Department."
Also late last week, a conservative satirist over at the Exurban League website imagined the speech that Obama was surely getting ready to deliver, about how the pirate crisis must be resolved "in a peaceful, tolerant, and ecologically-sensitive manner." The satirist envisoned Obama announcing that he would "create a cabinet-level Czar of Pirate Outreach and Buccaneer Intervention. In addition, June 1-7 has been designated as Pirate Awareness Week, during which all federal buildings will fly the Jolly Roger and sponsor sensitivity training." Rush Limbaugh touted this piece on the air, as did radio host Hugh Hewitt. (All politics aside, the piece is very funny.)
So the Obama critics were eagerly awaiting the kind of failure that Rush has long been rooting for...ooops! At 11 p.m. last night, even Fox News felt compelled to announce on the air, "President Obama...gave the Navy SEALs the green light."
But what about the general response on the right? Is there general acknowledgment that this president basically responded as conservatives hope and expect any president would respond? Will they volunteer to eat crow and concede that Obama has passed a crucial test, one that they helped frame?
Not a chance. Already, the evolving response has two themes: Obama didn't authorize the Navy SEAL operation fast enough, and Obama will surely recommend leniency for the teenage pirate that was captured.
Regarding the first theme, military vet Jeff Emanuel, blogging at redstate.com, says that Obama "dallied, dawdled, and eschewed any decisiveness whatsoever," thus showing the world that he "has no idea how to respond to such situations." Meanwhile, a Texas lawyer named William Dyer asks on his blog, "Why did Barack Obama have to sleep on the decision" whether to authorize the operation? Dyer, while noting that he doesn't have all the details pertaining to "our nominal commander in chief," nevertheless suggests that Obama's decision timeline is probably "outrageous" and "pathetic." Meanwhile, over on the Fox News website, Judy Miller (the ex-New York Times reporter who wrote front-page lies about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction) makes the observation that Obama "finally" authorized the operation.
As for that captured pirate, the evolving right-wing meme is that Obama's Justice Department will let him off easy and maybe cut him loose. In Emanuel's words, "My money is on a life of welfare checks, a plot of land...and voting rights in Chicago, New York, and Seattle." Given the fact that the legal process will take awhile - Justice is reportedly reviewing evidence against the captured offender - there will be ample time for the right to improve the quality of its quips.
The bottom line, however, is that the president authorized the operation and it succeeded; indeed, today there are some classy folks on the right, including conservative strategist Craig Shirley, who says that Obama acted "with speed and aplomb and thus deserves the praise of his fellow citizens in dealing with piracy on the high seas."
Obama's unbending antagonists are free, of course, to minimize his role and deny him any credit...but it's a sure bet they would be assigning him all the blame if the crisis had ended badly. Their credibility on this crisis may be strong within the friendly confines of their echo chamber, but it's considerably less so in the outside world where most Americans live.