After the Boston Marathon bombings, we have been treated to a series of columns by Obama critics blasting him for (a) not blaming terrorism sooner, (2) not blaming Muslims sooner, (3) Mirandizing the suspect, and (4) serving on a committee with Weather Underground's Bill Ayers.
It's all part of a campaign to claim that Obama is soft on terrorism. Is it a smart policy? And what does the actual evidence show?
First of all, this obsession with trying to paint Obama as soft on terrorism to what end does it exist? It is as if Obama's critics fail to realize that he's a lame duck president, as if he'll be defeated in a future election. Rather than focus on the 2016 election, they seem obsessed with trying to refight a battle that's over, and was finished in 2008 or 2012.
Second of all, it's not even the smartest argument that can be launched at Team Obama. If I were a Republican, I'd focus on how these brothers slipped through the cracks in a system that was designed to make sure that sort of thing didn't happen again, as it did with 9/11. Are agencies working together and sharing information?
Third, calling President Obama soft on terrorism isn't such a smart idea when you consider his record. Regardless of whether you think taking down Osama bin Laden was important, it was to most American people. When you contrast the current administration's record with George W. Bush telling us in 2002 that he wasn't too concerned about getting the al Qaeda leader and architect of 9/11, the latter doesn't look so good.
It's hard to believe that up to mid-April, Republicans led by Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul were ripping Obama for allowing drone strikes to kill American citizens affiliated with terror groups without judicial due process, even trying to filibuster John Brennan, Obama's CIA nominee who took part in piecing together the hunt for Osama bin Laden.
Read Paul's remarks to the Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC) this year about how designating and then detaining enemy combatants is wrong, and then scratch your head as Obama gets torched for not doing just that. Senator Paul then promptly flip-flopped on drone strikes (after the Boston bombing), and then flipped again when he was criticized by conservatives for changing his position.
Obama's policies have been somewhat inconsistent. His missile strikes have killed American citizens who were part of al Qaeda, like al-Awlaki, Samir Khan and their associates in Yemen, instead of trying to capture them and bring them to trial. But at the same time, he's provided civilian trials to the Underwear Bomber and the would-be Times Square Bomber, both of which were successfully prosecuted (Nidal Malik Hassan is undergoing a military trial for killing several soldiers at Fort Hood, but that difference is understandable, as he was a member of the military).
Obama really needs to explain the big variation in his policies.But blasting everything Obama has done on terrorism has meant inconsistency on the part of critics, who warned the president he was going too far on fighting terrorism, until, of course, the next terror event (in Boston). Trying to sell the argument that Obama is always soft on terrorism isn't matched by the facts, either, even though the president really needs to explain his anti-terrorism policies to the American people.
John A. Tures, associate professor of political science, LaGrange College; firstname.lastname@example.org.