Barack Obama has been President of the United States for well over seven years. Since January 2009, it’s become commonplace to listen to Republican “lawmakers” (if common sense legislation goes unwritten and unpassed, is Congress really in the business of lawmaking?) blame POTUS for…everything. And somehow it has grown equally de rigueur for the media to accept the constant, inactive finger pointing as a genuinely held belief, the legitimate position of a statesperson.
I’ve been watching the brilliant CNN docuseries, Race for the White House. Episode 4, “Truman vs. Dewey,” is a fascinating piece that captures Truman’s unlikely, come-from-behind victory in 1948. One of the strategies that drove the Democrat’s late-breaking success was an active campaign against the Republican-led, 80th, “Do-Nothing Congress.” At one train stop and stump speech after another, Truman reminded voters of the House and Senate’s general dereliction of duty – to great effect.
Here’s the irony. The “Do Nothing” crowd passed a total of 906 public bills. By comparison, the 113th Congress passed just 52 bills at the close of 2013. There are no typos here. Just sad evidence of the inaction we’ve learned to accept from our elected officials. What was odious in 1948 is still 94 percent better than what we have today.
Yet somehow the President continues to be the story, the sole explanation for our nation’s failure to come together to address challenges. In particular, GOP leadership loves to accuse Obama of being “soft” on terrorism. Because he’s a liberal, bleeding heart socialist or a closeted African Muslim, or something else that’s terrible and just not ‘Murica. We need to carpet bomb our enemies, right Ted Cruz?
But here’s the irony.
Late last week, U.S. officials announced that ISIS’ number two operative, Finance Minister Haji Iman, was killed during a raid in Syria. For those who have been paying long-term attention (and Republicans count on the fact that we don’t), the headline should sound familiar. Because just seven months ago in August of 2015, a different ISIS number two, Haji Mutazz, was taken out in a drone strike near Mosul, Iraq. And three months earlier than that, in May 2015, another ISIS leader, Abu Sayya, was killed in an eastern Syrian raid alongside 18 other militants.
Three times during the last two years, the US-led coalition (featuring a guy named Barack Obama, Commander-in-Chief of the military) has destroyed top ISIS officials. However if you ask Republicans or their media mouthpieces, Obama is doing nothing. The last great hope for 2016 Trump prevention, Texas Senator and cynical piece of garbage Ted Cruz, puts his serious, smarmy face on and tells the obediently reporting media, “Unfortunately, we have a President who doesn’t recognize the enemy who has declared war on us.”
If Republican standard bearers want us to believe Barack Obama has been clueless and disengaged when it comes to fighting terrorism, I don’t think the 10,000-plus ISIS fighters killed in a 9-month campaign last year would agree. These totals have been achieved without direct congressional support, and balanced against leftist criticism (such as my own) about the moral implications of drone strikes and civilian casualties. It’s not an enviable line our President walks, but even Cruz isn’t advocating additional boots on the ground. Could the GOP be slightly more specific about what they would have Obama do? Oops! There I go asking for actual policy prescriptions!
Let’s be clear about two facts. The ISIS-led attack on Brussels, Belgium early last week is a terrible tragedy. It also had very little to do with Obama’s domestic or international terrorism policies. It may be politically convenient to beat the same drum, but in this instance, the criticism removes the focus from the complete bureaucratic disaster at all Belgian levels. Brussels is dangerously segregated, and the country needs to rectify massive flaws in reporting and follow up on terrorism leads. There are systemic issues that need to be addressed, and the United States can provide little more than support and expertise.
The continued, illogical attempt to blame Obama for anything and everything has been a remarkably successful strategy for Republicans…to a point. But the clock is ticking on the sitting POTUS’s second term. Books can and will be written about everything this President has accomplished against all odds and roadblocks put up by 2016’s own Republican-led “Do-Nothing Congress.”