The Campaign Spot


From the Morning Jolt:


This president is still walking around with an oversized sense of his own popularity, political capital, and public trust. He still thinks that if he says “we will do X,” people will believe him.

He’s capable of giving a good speech — well, reading from a teleprompter with the right tone, facial expressions, and mannerisms — but very few people, at home or abroad still expect dramatic action to follow dramatic words. The Obama pattern is clear: Big promise, lousy results. Too many lines instantly pop into the minds of viewers. Red line. “If you like your plan, you can keep your plan.” We’re going to arm the moderate Syrian rebels. “New tone.” “Assad must go.”

Just because Obama says it, it doesn’t mean it’s going to happen. “We will hunt down terrorists who threaten our country, wherever they are.” Well, that will be nice if it happens. As @CuffyMeh put it, “We will chase ISIS to the end of the earth as long as it doesn’t involve actually touching the earth.”

And as we’ve noted, Obama periodically offers comments that suggest he’s out to lunch. The world is safer than it was 20 years ago. We know more about trouble overseas because of social media.

Obama’s numbers are terrible — and that’s because of three things: Beheadings on Americans’ televisions, the idiotic “we don’t have a strategy” declaration, coupled with the subsequent statement that ISIS was a problem to be “managed.” You can throw in the “JV team” as another key element of the deep unease with this administration’s terror-fighting abilities. (The Osama bin Laden raid sure feels like a long time ago, huh?)

The president and his administration insist upon calling the group “ISIL”, preferring the term “Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant.” As Chuck Todd said, they don’t like to refer to Syria in this context. This is a silly word game in hopes for political spin.

Last night I enjoyed the chance to briefly speak to Brit Hume in the Fox News offices. “He’ll speak about ISIS as if they appeared out of nowhere like Godzilla,” Hume predicted.

David Frum makes the very solid point that by attacking ISIS, we are helping the Iranian regime, the Assad regime in Syria, and Hezbollah. He points out that the Obama administration is ignoring this embarrassing situation, and hoping the American public doesn’t notice it. Indeed, it is a pretty remarkable and revealing aspect of the Obama administration that apparently no one on that foreign policy all-star team even thought about using the carrot of anti-ISIS action as leverage against the Iranians.

Frum’s whole argument opposing military action is almost persuasive . . . except for the detail that ISIS has killed Americans and has made clear its intent to kill more Americans.

The John Wayne-Ted Nugent-Toby Keith-Andrew-Jackson-Early-Frank-Miller-Batman-Papa-Bear-Author-of-a-book-titled-Voting-to-Kill side of me says that whenever anybody anywhere in the world kills an American for being an American, we’re obligated to rain hellfire down upon them, oftentimes in the form of a literal Hellfire missile.

But the 2014 version of me recognizes something the 2004 version didn’t: If you openly broadcast that philosophy, a lot of people are going to kill Americans just because they want to fight the lone remaining superpower. Everybody wants to be the man that shot Liberty Valance. Every aspiring terrorist wants to be the one who punched the Great Satan and lived to tell the tale.

And let’s face it, there are a lot of groups in this world that killed Americans and escaped much consequence. The barracks bombers of Lebanon. We hit Qaddafi, but only before Lockerbie, not after. The Iranians had a hand in Khobar Towers; we only exposed the names of their agents. We’ve caught one Benghazi attacker. Syria basically ran a superhighway for insurgents in Iraq, and the Iranians helped the insurgents, too. We still don’t know who we can trust in Pakistan. (Perhaps America has taken vengeance in some covert manner, to be revealed to a future generation.)

You don’t tug on Superman’s cape, you don’t spit into the wind, you don’t pull the mask of the ol’ Lone Ranger, and . . . well, you know.

Deterrence requires consequences. The world doesn’t lack people who enjoy killing Americans, and while we can debate “root causes” and “why do they hate us” as long as we like, we’re not likely to talk them out of it any time soon. (Does it seem like the Chinese don’t have this problem as much? The Russians? Is it that nobody’s really afraid of crossing us?)

So we have to respond. We have to punish aggression, wickedness and brutality when it targets our fellow Americans. But, as presidents are fond of saying, we must deal out that punishment “at a time and place of our choosing.”

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