For quite a while, it looked as if the Republican Party had just about given up on taking Osama bin Laden seriously. During his presidential campaign, Mitt Romney took a surprisingly passive attitude towards the terrorist responsible for 9/11, saying, “It’s not worth moving heaven and earth spending billions of dollars just trying to catch one person.” Fred Thomson dismissed bin Laden’s significance as mere “symbolism.” The president, of course, famously said of bin Laden, “I truly am not that concerned about him.”
But that was then. Now that it’s time for the general election, the GOP has rediscovered OBL. Yesterday, for example, John McCain posted this item on his campaign blog:
Senator Obama is obviously confused about what the United States Supreme Court decided and what he is calling for. After enthusiastically embracing the Supreme Court decision granting habeas in U.S. civilian courts to dangerous terrorist detainees, he is now running away from the consequences of that decision and what it would mean if Osama bin Laden were captured. Senator Obama refuses to clarify whether he believes habeas should be granted to Osama bin Laden….
Yesterday morning, the RNC distributed this Obama quote to reporters, as if it were, prima facie, controversial: “I think what would be important would be for us to deal with him in a way that allows the entire world to understand the murderous acts that he’s engaged in and not to make him into a martyr.” (Why the RNC finds this offensive is unclear.)
Shortly before that, McCain foreign policy adviser Randy Scheunemann falsely accused Obama of opposing the death penalty for bin Laden. McCain also repeated his promise to either “kill” or “execute” bin Laden (McCain is relying on a secret get-bin-Laden plan that he chooses not to share with the White House or the military.)
The bad news is, the demagoguery here is shameless and pathetic. The good news is, it doesn’t make any sense and is easy to push back against.