The Obama campaign once again is making the argument that the president’s political opponents are rooting for bad economic news: “They need to get off their hands and stop rooting for failure,” said Stephanie Cutter, Obama’s deputy campaign manager. David Axelrod accused Republicans of “high-fiving each other” when economic news is bleak. If true, that would be wrong and regrettable. But not long ago, when the United States was trying to restore order in Iraq through the surge, a number of prominent political rivals of George Bush seemed to be rooting for failure.
Despite good news from the Petraeus surge, Senator and presidential candidate Barack Obama announced repeatedly that the surge was a failure and would only make things worse — until the good news was so well established that Obama quietly and without any apologies simply scrubbed his once serial declarations of opposition from his website. Harry Reid infamously declared the war “lost.” Nancy Pelosi, the late Ted Kennedy, Hillary Clinton (“suspension of disbelief”), and John Kerry all announced that the ongoing surge would fail — and all this came at a critical time when General Petraeus desperately needed public support for troops in the field.
The general mood among prominent Democratic politicians was that, after the 2006 midterm wins, fervent opposition to salvaging the American effort was a proven blueprint to achieve even more congressional gains and the White House in 2008. I don’t think any of this is controversial, and was assumed at the time to be “just politics” — despite the fact that we were in the middle of a war. What continues to amaze about the Obama people is not that they played hard and rough in 2007–8, but that they seem paranoid that anyone else might adopt the same questionable methods that they once found so attractive and critical to their own success.
We’ve seen this before with the Obama circle’s protests about criticism of the president — despite their total silence from 2003–8 when Bush was the subject of an assassination docudrama and novel, an “I Hate Bush” New Republic essay, and an op-ed hoping for another John Wilkes Booth — as well as the Al Gore, John Glen, et al. Nazi-brownshirt boilerplate.