The killing of Osama Bin Laden is wildly popular with the American public. Rasumussen reports that 86 percent of Americans support the president's mission to kill Bin Laden.
And yet, it's headlines like this one—"Bin Laden Killing Erases Democrats' Wimp Factor"—that tell us more about what it's like to be alive in the 21st century. It's for a piece by Peter Beinart over at The Daily Beast. Said piece lays out the glorious partisan reasons beyond the obvious to celebrate the death of an evil killer, including such insights as:
The bin Laden operation…was pure testosterone. Once U.S. intelligence tracked bin Laden to his compound, Obama chose the most aggressive option—a commando attack—rather than missile strikes, even though it risked U.S. deaths or hostages….
Obama has dramatically increased drone attacks, in Afpak and beyond, which shred international law. And this attack was so unilateral that we didn't even consult with the "ally" on whose territory we carried it out….
With the exception of his decision to surge in Afghanistan, Obama's foreign policy has been reasonably good. He's avoided the disastrous missteps that often plague new presidents. But until Sunday, his foreign policy had lacked "Jacksonian" appeal. Walter Russell Mead calls "Jacksonianism" (after Andrew Jackson) the foreign policy ethic born in the Indian wars of the American frontier. It's populist, parochial and ferocious. Jacksonians don't want to redeem the world; they'd just as soon ignore it. But when foreign threats emerge, they demand shock and awe.
That's what Obama has now given them.
Beinart was the editor of The New Republic from 1999 through 2006. After a stint at Council on Foreign Relations, he nows hangs his shingle at the journalism and poli. sci. departments of City University of New York and the pages of the Beast.
As editor of The New Republic, Beinart signed on to the invasion of Iraq, a position the magazine later regretted. In 2006, he published the book The Good Fight: Why Liberals—and Only Liberals—Can Win the War on Terror and Make America Great Again and in 2010 he followed it up with The Icarus Syndrome: A History of American Hubris, which suggests that circa 2014 or 2015, he'll be less focused on (finally!) beating off the "wimp factor" and more on how things have really gone south (again).
After the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) earlier this year, I wrote a piece about "The Instant Politicization of Everything, & Why Americans Increasingly Hate Dems & Reps." One way to take a tragedy and make it even worse, I argued, was to immediately spin it to partisan political purposes. With the Giffords shooting, that started literally before anybody knew anything about the shooter, with twidiots such as Markos Moulitsas blaming Sarah Palin for pulling the trigger. The killing of Bin Laden is no tragedy but the speed with which Democrats and Republicans immediately put the event to the rankest partisan advantage is simply and profoundly appalling.
And ineffective on top of that. As The Washington Post put it, the Bin Laden killing "gives Obama quick but limited ratings boost." I'd wager that the longer-term effect of discourse such as Beinart's is an intensifcation of the ongoing rejection of partisan labels by Americans. Since the early 1970s, fewer and fewer adults are quick to call themselves Republican or Democrat. Who can blame them?
We can cheer on the death of the worst terrorist we hopefully will ever know, we can even get behind various efforts to flex American muscles and might, we can rally around the flag, we can get jingoistic even about chess matches and piano recitals and the Olympics, but trying to lock down how every freaking thing in the world will erase one party's "wimp factor" (anyone else remember the equally pathetic ramblings about George H.W. Bush around the time of the first Gulf War?) isn't going to inspire confidence in the two-party system. Or the testeroney goodness of Bush the Elder, Barack Obama, or anyone else.
Yesterday, we released results of the first Reason Foundation-Rupe Poll. One of the findings was that a plurality of Americans (35 percent) answered neither when asked whether they thought the Democrats or Republicans would govern more responsibly. Which suggests that we aren't just smart, we're actually paying attention to the way partisans yammer on about things.