Obama the Conqueror has gone to Afghanistan, spoken to the troops, and presented medals. Most importantly, he has addressed the American people from Afghanistan, standing before camouflaged war equipment festooned with the Stars and Stripes. The primary goal of this multi-million-dollar trip, however, was not the agreement with the Afghan government–it was the re-election of Barack Obama. As his so-called “moderate” supporters abandon him in droves, he needs to shore up that component of his electorate by appearing to be strong in defense and international issues.
If you doubt my interpretation of events, I challenge you simply to look at the context. Just prior to the trip to Afghanistan, the Obama campaign went into high gear in its attacks against Mitt Romney, who is all but anointed at this point by the GOP as Obama’s opponent. The campaign released an ad featuring no less than the lecherous Bill Clinton singing the praises of Obama’s bravery in authorizing the taking down of Osama bin Laden a year ago. As Clinton would have us believe, Obama’s love of country led him to risk his political strength in ordering the assault by Navy Seal-Team 6. “You hire the President to make the calls when no one else can do it.” Clinton should know. After all, he made the call to destroy an aspirin factory during his own term of office–presumably to prevent the members of al-Quaeda from finding the headache relief they undoubtedly need. In addition, the Obama campaign has insinuated that as President, Romney would not have made the decision to take down bin Laden. (The same type of tactic was condemned by the Obama team when it was tried by Hillary Clinton during the Democratic primary race against Obama–remember Hillary’s ad about the phone call at 3:00 am?)
If you want to understand what’s going on, you can see all of this as the sound of the campaign starting pistol for the November presidential election, at least as far as Barack Obama is concerned. The most important thing between now and then will be the effects brought about by sound bites and appearances. Obama is a good leader because he looks like a good leader. He’s strong on defense because he flew a long way to look strong, and because he addressed the nation in front of camouflaged vehicles. Facts are less important than appearances. As voters step into the voting booth in November, he wants them to take his preferred sound bites and appearances with them.
But let’s not kid ourselves. This tactic gets a great deal of play in the Republican party as well. A perfect example would be that of my own congressman, Steven Palazzo (of the 4th Congressional District of Mississippi). About a month ago he showed up at Sumrall High School to tell those in attendance that the nation has a spending problem. Sounding like a member of the Tea Party, he boldly proclaimed that “we are not in a revenue crisis. We are in a debt crisis.” He’s another politician counting on us to forget, hoping to gain our vote by shallow appearances and sound bites. The fact is that Mr. Palazzo is a big-spending supporter of Speaker John Boehner; their votes and the votes of moderate Republicans have helped to give us the debt problem Palazzo now uses to preach fiscal responsibility. What an odd turn of events!
On August 1, 2011, Palazzo voted to raise the debt limit. He has consistently misrepresented his vote as a vote for “the largest spending cut in American history” that takes a “blank check” away from President Obama and the radical wing of the Democratic Party. In reality, the Republicans who cooperated with this rise in the debt ceiling did nothing more than secure a very small decrease in the growth of future spending. The passage of this dangerous bill—with majority Republican support—immediately accomplished two things: it resulted in a lowering of the nation’s credit evaluation by Standard and Poor’s Rating Services and it turned on another spigot of cash that can be diverted to top supporters of the agenda of the Democratic Party. On September 21, 2011, Rep. Palazzo voted for the Continuing Appropriations Resolution to fund the federal government through November at a level $24 billion higher than the previously passed budget offered by more conservative members of the House. Twice in February of 2011 he voted to increase federal spending.
Clearly, dear reader, political gamesmanship is a skill that is widely exercised on both sides of the aisle. Democrat or Republican, wouldn’t it be nice to have a politician who believes less in games and appearances and more in statesmanship? Wouldn’t it be refreshing to have a representative who speaks plainly and honestly? Wouldn’t it be nice to choose our elected officials because we have heard them speak their minds truthfully and we know how they will vote on particular matters like spending? And wouldn’t it be a blessing if they actually did what they promised?
The politics of honesty. One can only imagine.