A new paradigm for a Democratic President: President Barack Obama will be able to run on his strengths as commander-in-chief in 2012.
This development is one that hasn’t seemed to have occurred yet to Republicans, who are fighting this President in their debates as if he is Jimmy Carter, as they have fought every Democrat since…. Carter.
Remember back in 2008 when Republicans were able to use the narrative that Obama was inexperienced on foreign policy and national security? This tactic has been a mainstay for Republicans in spite of their own recent national security failures under Bush. Republicans have successfully branded themselves the party of toughness; the Big Daddy Americans trust with the safety of the nation. The party we turn to when we are afraid, the only party that knows how to show foreign enemies that we’re the boss.
This decades old narrative McCain won the majority of veteran votes in 2008; however, Obama won the majority of veterans under age 60.
Then a Democratic President got Osama bin Laden and dozens of Al-Qaida leaders, accomplishing a feat that wowed even his detractors. Republicans did everything in their power to minimize Obama’s military and strategic successes, unwilling to yield their mantle as the party of toughness. We all recall Republicans transparent and rather petty attempts to force Obama to share the Osama-get limelight with former President Bush. House Speaker John Boehner said he wanted to “commend President Obama and his team, as well as President Bush, for all of their efforts to bring Osama bin Laden to justice.”
They needn’t have bothered, Obama was all too willing to credit Bush for an event that frankly would never have gone down the way it did under Bush, who’s militaristic approach differs from Obama’s preference for relying upon intelligence-gathering.
Eric Cantor bent over backwards to give Bush credit for Obama’s strategy, saying the President was just following “the vigilance of President Bush in bringing Bin Laden to justice.” But just think if the Osama mission had gone wrong. Eric Zorn pointed out in that the Republicans would have tripped over themselves to hang the failure around Obama’s neck:
They would have hung the “Abomination at Abbottabad” around his neck like a millstone for the duration of the 2012 presidential campaign. And many voters and media commentators would have seen the disaster as “a brutal symbol” of his lack of “effectiveness as a president (and) the very essence of his manhood.”
The quotes are from biographer Frye Gaillard’s “Prophet from Plains: Jimmy Carter and His Legacy,” and they describe the prism through which the public came to view our 39th president’s similarly bold but ultimately tragic attempt in April 1980, to send a team of commandos into Tehran to rescue 52 American hostages.
But apparently Republicans efforts to discredit Obama as a strong Commander in Chief haven’t been as successful as they hoped, at least not among the actual troops serving under him. Reuters reports:
The Obama campaign has built a network of more than 700 supportive veterans to promote the president in key states such as Virginia and North Carolina, where 13 percent and 11 percent of residents are veterans, respectively.
These states are among a dozen divided battleground states that could hold the keys to victory in the 2012 election….
Obama’s campaign has staff members reaching out to veterans and aims to have veterans’ liaisons in every state, a campaign official said. It also has tapped outside groups to help round up supportive veterans, a source from one of the groups said.
Veterans who back the president are hosting roughly 30 events this week tied to Obama’s visit on Wednesday to Fort Bragg, North Carolina. There, Obama heralded the troop pullout from Iraq by the end of this year, fulfilling a 2008 campaign promise to end the war.
Republicans will still continue to accuse Obama of being “naïve” and “leading from behind” on foreign affairs, but the public may not be as easily duped this campaign season, especially as several Republican candidates are evoking the Bush administration’s WMD debacle by recklessly beating the Iran WMD drum in their debates.
After all, the nation has changed since Bush was able to harvest support with hawkish talk of weapons of mass destruction; while the Republican base is drawn to authoritarian war talk couched in nationalism, Americans overall are war-weary.
The troops lining up in support of this President throw a new factor into a decades-old paradigm:
People are astounded that Obama has been as strong and tough on the security and foreign policy questions because that was the big question mark” about him, said Republican international lawyer Rita E. Hauser, who was on Bush’s Intelligence Advisory Board in 2001 but supported Obama in 2008 based on his stance on the Iraq war.
Obama has not only excelled in the field as CIC but has shown real support for veterans when they return from their tours. The President’s message to those who serve is this: “When you come home to America, America will be there for you.” Those are some powerful words for veterans who recall vividly the lack of medical and financial help they were subjected to in years prior.
If you don’t live near a base or have a family member serving, you are probably unaware of the myriad of challenges that face our returning troops. But the Obama administration has been paying attention.
They are working to ensure that DoD and VA coordinate to provide a seamless transition from active duty to civilian life, something sorely lacking under Bush. A few of the President’s recent policies reflect this shift:
On November 21, 2011 President Obama signed the “VOW to Hire Heroes Act” into law. The Returning Heroes Tax Credit provides businesses that hire unemployed veterans a maximum credit of $5,600 per veteran, and the Wounded Warriors Tax Credit offers businesses that hire veterans with service-connected disabilities a maximum credit of $9,600 per veteran. Republican Senator Jim DeMint from South Carolina was the only Senator to vote no on the tax credit for hiring veterans, while Daniel Inouye (D-HI), John McCain (R-AZ), Rand Paul (R-KY) and Jeff Sessions (R-AL) did not vote. Yes, John McCain did not vote on the jobs bill for veterans.
On November 7, 2011 President Obama introduced new resources created to help veterans translate their military skills for the civilian workforce. The President has announced plans to raise military pay and continue providing quality child-care, job-training for spouses, and expanded counseling and outreach to families that have known the separation and stress of war.
Of course, in spite of the administration’s best efforts, our returning troops will come back to a suffering economy in addition to facing their readjustment to civilian life. To this end, First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden launched the “Joining Forces” initiative to support our service members and their families, including trying to ensure that veterans at risk of losing their homes have a roof over their heads.
President Obama faces an uphill battle in the 2012 election when it comes to the issue on most Americans’ minds right now: the economy. But with Republicans refusing to give middle class families a tax break and killing every attempt at a jobs bill (except the veterans jobs bill) and touting the same old “solutions” of giving “job creators” bigger tax breaks, Republicans have yet to successfully position themselves as the antidote to a bleak economy outside of their core base.
President Obama kneecapped the meme of the weak Democrat, but it’s not so clear that the Republicans know this yet.