Some issues are readymade partisan poo-throwing matches, with every Democratic and Republican talking point sketched out in advance. Others require a little time before they're really ready for the Crossfire format. The attack at Charlie Hebdo wasn't the sort of event that immediately lends itself to the Red Team/Blue Team treatment, but it got there within a week. All it took was a couple of faux outrages that the players could insert in the original, bona fide outrage's place.
On the Republican side, the pseudo-controversy involves Obama's failure to appear at a rally in France over the weekend. This is, to be clear, not just a Republican concern. It's the sort of purely symbolic issue that people love to weigh in on, and it's pretty much the conventional wisdom right now that the president or another high-ranking American official should have gone. Politico's liberal-leaning cartoonist Matt Wuerker offered the argument as angrily as anyone at The Weekly Standard or National Review:
But whatever the world leaders who came to France were there to defend, it surely wasn't liberté. Many of the regimes represented regularly stomp on speech in their own countries. ("Marches and public protests are banned in Algeria," one website pointed out, "but Algerian ministers have the right to march in the streets of…Paris!") If only Washington and Moscow had men there, by gum, then the censors would be on the run!
At any rate, the French themselves don't seem particularly concerned about Obama's absence—yesterday their ambassador said the controversy was "weird"—so this doesn't even rise to the level of a diplomatic faux pas. But the White House itself has now announced that it erred in not sending someone to the rally, and the Republicans have been pressing their advantage. Rick Perry even called the decision "a new low in American diplomacy." He didn't say what the previous low was. Yalta?
So what's a Democrat to do? The Red Team could read from its familiar The President's Failure To Make The Right Symbolic Gesture Shows His Lack Of Resolve In The War On Terror script, and the Blue Team was left flailing. It looked like they'd just be reduced to sputtering that Republicans said mean things about France back in the Bush years…until last night, when Providence provided this:
When Rep. Randy Weber's tweet appeared, a wave of relief rippled from The Huffington Post to MSNBC. The Blue Team picked up one of its own favorite scripts—it's called You're Smarter Than This Republican You've Never Heard Of Before—and everything fell into place. Put the cable news channels back on autopilot, boys; everyone knows what to say til the next crisis comes along.