Jewish World Review May 11, 2011 7 Iyar, 5771
Obama Becomes the Moxie President
By Roger Simon
Republican presidents will protect us because they are muscular on national defense. Democratic presidents put our lives at risk because all they care about is peace at any price.
Or at least that's what Republicans have told us in election after election. But even if it were ever true, it won't be true in 2012.
Over the weekend, I kept reading the same analysis by different people: The bin Laden "bump" will not last long. Even though Barack Obama got a boost in his approval ratings by finding and killing Osama bin Laden, this will soon fade. And by November 2012, the bad state of the U.S. economy — the analysts always assume it will remain bad — will doom Obama and convey him to the rubbish bin of history.
The analysts never say, however, just who, exactly, will beat Obama. They just figure somebody will.
And they may be right. But I wouldn't bet the mortgage on it. (Unless it's a subprime mortgage, it's underwater, and you're about to strip the copper wiring out of the walls and leave it for the bank to take back anyway.)
If you talk to Obama people these days, you find they are not exactly in a state of despair. Instead, they are trying to tamp down over-optimism and ban exuberance.
Why are they happy? Did you catch "60 Minutes" on Sunday? Did you catch Steve Kroft's exclusive interview with President Obama about finding bin Laden? About 13.7 million Americans did. ("America's Funniest Home Videos" came in second during the hour with 6.4 million viewers.)
And when people watched "60 Minutes," did they see a Mommy Party guy? Not quite. They saw a determined, strong, resolute president who saw his duty and did it.
Not everyone is happy. Andrew Card, who was George W. Bush's chief of staff, criticized Obama in an interview with the German newspaper Der Spiegel. "I think he has pounded his chest a little too much," Card said. "He can take pride in it, but he does not need to show it so much."
This, as Talking Points Memo noted, from an administration that had "President Bush land a fighter jet on board an aircraft carrier before delivering his famous speech celebrating the invasion of Iraq in front of a giant 'Mission: Accomplished' banner."
Still, Card did say in the interview: "President Obama made a courageous decision because so many things could have gone wrong. What would have happened if bin Laden had not been there or if the Pakistani military had intervened? With imperfect knowledge, I would say that this was probably a 50-50 chance."
Obama disagrees only by a few percentage points. "This was still a 55-45 situation," he told Kroft. "I mean, we could not say definitively that bin Laden was there. Had he not been there, then there would have been some significant consequences."
But Obama did it. He risked it. He acted. He did not sit paralyzed in a classroom listening to children reading "The Pet Goat" while the Twin Towers fell down.
And by acting and succeeding, Obama has taken national defense off the table. Republicans will be unable to exploit it in 2012.
In a much-quoted speech to the Democratic Leadership Council on Dec. 3, 2002, Bill Clinton said: "The last point I want to make is we've got to be strong. When we look weak in a time where people feel insecure, we lose. When people feel uncertain, they'd rather have somebody who's strong and wrong than somebody who's weak and right."
Today, Obama looks strong and unwrong. That could change by 2012. But it's currently unlikely that there is a potential Republican nominee out there who can present him or herself as a stronger president.
Could there be a bad economy in the fall of 2012? Sure. Could a majority of people disapprove of Obama's job performance on Election Day? You bet. Could even more than the current 70 percent think the nation is on the wrong track? Of course.
But I can guarantee you one thing: On Nov. 6, 2012, the ballot will not read, "Do you approve or disapprove of Barack Obama?" It will not read, "Is this nation on the wrong track or the right track?"
It will read: Barack Obama vs. Newt Gingrich. Or Tim Pawlenty. Or Sarah Palin. Or Donald Trump. Or Mitt Romney. Or fill in the blank. The order is random. But against 10 possible Republican opponents, including flavors-of-the-week Mitch Daniels and Jon Huntsman, Obama beats every one of them, according to the Real Clear Politics average of polls.
Could this change? Yes. But keep in mind one other thing: Incumbents don't really run against their own records. Incumbents run against an opponent's ability to exploit the incumbent's record.
As a top Democratic insider told me Monday afternoon: "The president has solidified the notion that he makes hard choices and takes on challenges. Some are unpopular: saving the financial industry, saving the auto industry, reforming health care. But he has the strength, the fortitude, the moxie to make the tough decisions."
So all the Republicans need is someone with more moxie than Obama. Any names come to mind?
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