You’ve probably heard the expression: “Only Nixon could go to China.” It essentially means only someone with solid credibility on a given issue (such as Nixon’s impeccable anti-Communist credentials) has the leverage do something that might otherwise appear to defy those credentials (such as Nixon’s going to Red China to meet Chairman Mao).
As Republicans seek to oust Barack Obama in 2012, it is worth at least considering a possible modern corollary: Maybe only a Democratic president can get away with killing terrorists these days.
That, of course, isn’t exactly true. It may just be easier for them politically. For evidence, look no further than the killing of Anwar al-Awlaki. With a few obvious exceptions (such as Glenn Greenwald), most liberals turned a blind eye to Obama’s decision to kill an American citizen.
This is partly because of partisanship (most people are loath to criticize their guy) — but also because Obama’s past rhetoric (such as criticizing the Bush Administration for “overreacting to the events of 9/11”) gave him cover to act tough on terrorism.
But just imagine the outcry from the left that would have ensued had President Bush (or Perry or Romney) ordered the “assassination” of an American citizen. The media would have spent weeks debating the ethics of such a decision. Obama, conversely, not only enjoyed the acquiescence of his base, but many Republicans (with the obvious exception of Rep. Ron Paul) were publicly supportive of the decision.
This all seems to imply that, when it comes to killing terrorists in the current political and cultural milieu, a Democratic president will face less resistance than a Republican president. Critics may lament that this as a double-standard, and it is clearly frustrating to some Republicans (including former Vice President Dick Cheney) who were beat up for for doing similar things they deemed necessary to protect the country. But while it isn’t fair, neither is the notion that Obama is soft on terror. There are many reasons to vote against Obama (including a 9.1 percent unemployment rate), but his record of killing terrorists seems beyond reproach.
Defeating Barack Obama may indeed bring about many salutary ends, but it may also ironically lessen the public’s appetite (or tolerance) for killing terrorists using drone strikes, etc. Many conservatives would obviously view that as a bad thing.
This is something nobody seems to want to discuss.