Purely from a political standpoint as we head into the precarious midterm elections, President Obama needs to stop trying to explain why he feels it’s necessary to strike ISIL and instead he needs to be focused on the issues at home and call out Republicans. Otherwise, he risks depressing the Democratic base to a dangerous extent.
We rarely agree with Sunday show pundits, so it was no surprise when Jeffrey Goldberg tweeted dryly, “Watching CNN at the airport. Sunday panelists suggesting that Obama is like Bush because he is now fighting in the Middle East, like Bush.”
We almost can’t bear this level of stupidity. If you fight in the Middle East, you are Bush? This makes all presidents who ever fight in the Middle East Bush. That’s convenient, if you’re trying to whitewash Bush’s record.
This conclusion is absurd because it is built upon the premise that Bush’s political failures regarding the Middle East had nothing to do with the fact that he started a war in Iraq based on a lie, had no exit strategy, and declared Mission Accomplished on his war on an idea (who declares war on an idea and expects victory over the world?). Oh, no. It’s just being in the Middle East that made him one of the worst presidents in modern history. Just fight there and you are also Bush.
Here is an example of the speciousness of the Obama-is-Bush-because-Middle-East argument: If Obama breathes through his nostrils, he is like Bush, because Bush was also rumored to breathe through his nostrils on more than one occasion. But then, the Sunday shows star fallacious arguments lacking any logic every week.
Sadly, stupid is paid and stupid does speak and stupid does seep into the national consciousness. Then stupid beats up the Democratic base, who just like their representatives tend to value civility and middle ground so much that they will avoid conflict even when they should not, gets depressed.
They go silent, because they don’t want to hear that their President is Bush. And since this is such a massively stupid premise that is not backed up by reality or facts so much so that anyone with one working brain cell should know the difference, Democrats often can’t even articulate a coherent response. Pearls after swine, they tell themselves.
It doesn’t help that Republicans have been working hard on selling this idea to the Democratic base for 6 years, including deceptively editing video to suggest that Obama wanted the changes in the NDAA that made him “just like Bush”. Only not, because he had actually asked for the opposite. But no matter, those were heady days for anti-Obama operatives in the “left” media.
So it hurts the base. They have been down this road before from their own “side” and it was ugly. Now President Obama is making what seem like daily appeals to explain the need to fight ISIL, which on the surface really does sound too much like Bush (sounds like is not IS, this is an appearance thing not a reality thing). Then the pundits looking for easy hits pile on, Obama is Bush! The knee jerk response is: Bush argued for war. UGH. Bush bad. Stop talking about war. Bad Obama.
This kind of simplistic reaction overrides our logical understanding that conflict is necessary sometimes. Emotions rule opinions.
But the base loves it when Obama gets the terrorists. So do Independents and even some Republicans. So instead of making the case for why we need to strike ISIL (and it would be foolish to paint Obama with the Bush brush of wanting war, of irrationally surging into war, of justifying it at any cost, because Obama is on the record doing the opposite), Obama needs to actually be more like Bush in one specific way.
President Obama needs to stop explaining policy in an effort to build a coalition of support among the people on this issue. Sure, he can’t make the news, but he can pivot from an attempt to talk intelligently and with nuance about an issue that people can’t/won’t/don’t want to hear.
The people aren’t going to support the strikes because they are tired of any semblance of war. But they will cheer the President for getting the terrorists. He’s already explained why he feels this is necessary, so he can safely pivot now and embrace the Big Daddy-Protector-in-the-White House persona that Americans love to believe in.
President Obama needs to be the decider who decided to strike ISIL, and hand out the terrorist gets to the public as something they can feel good about. The President should be associated with good news like getting the terrorists, while someone else in the administration handles the doling out of the bad news.
The base loves it when Obama disses Republicans even a bit, as he did last night. They hate watching this President get attacked over and over again, it dampens their morale. Low morale means low turnout.
Fight back or die. It’s that simple in politics.
War talk got Bush re-elected, but war talk is toxic to the Democratic base and the larger public right now. A war on obstructionists? That’s a war the base wants to hear all about.
The base needs their President to get them fired up. They will turn out for him, but first he has to lead them into the fight.