Motley Moose – Archive

Since 2008 – Progress Through Politics

Smiting the mighty meme machine

It’s no secret that for decades the Right has demonized Democrats as soft on defense, unable or unwilling to protect the nation, even traitors and enemies to the country.  It’s been a viciously effective line of attack, playing as it does on primal emotions, the preferred tool of demagogues.

It wasn’t always thus; I doubt anyone would have seriously thought JFK, for example, was a weakling on defense; but the Vietnam War and its hippie protestors provided a propaganda bonanza to the GOP, and they’ve been working it for all it’s worth (which is a lot) ever since.

And then came Obama, and the rightwing propagandists rubbed their hands in unholy glee.  The propaganda practically wrote itself!

But a funny thing happened on the way to the demonization.  Obama refused to play along.  He kept Gates at Defense, for example (much to the vocal dismay of many on the left).  He didn’t cut and run from Iraq and Afghanistan (more left dismay); rather, he took the measure of both conflicts and dealt with each as it seemed best after thorough, painstaking review.  He faced down the generals’ attempts to undermine him over policy with swift, smooth dexterity.

The meme of Dems = weak on defense was and is still out there, of course.  But on Saturday night, my belief is it took a wound that could cripple, perhaps even kill it.  I think it is possible that Obama taking out bin Laden may — I say MAY — go a long way to reverse public perceptions of the Dems as soft on defending this country.  

It seems to me that that line of attack began, in fact, to lose some steam when those Somali pirates got their heads blown off.  The Limbaugh types had been braying for days about how Obama would coddle the terrorists.  Then, suddenly, KABLOOIE!  And the strident yammering stuttered to a confused muttering.  No, it didn’t stop, it didn’t go away, it’s in the GOP playbook, chapter one; hell, it’s in the GOP DNA; but a lot of the power seeped out of it.

And now a Dem got Osama bin Laden, the personification of evil in this country’s political narrative for a decade.  Obama, the Kenyan socialist usurper, got bin Laden!  The right-wing spinmeisters can flail at it with all their might, but all across this country people are thanking President Obama for protecting the nation.  That’s a huge shift in perceptions. Can you hear the tectonic plates groaning as they inch into new configurations?  I think I can.

And why is taking down bin Laden such a big deal that this could happen?  Many reasons can be advanced, but this I believe is part of it:  As long as he was out there sneering nyah nyah, I stuck it to you and you can’t get me, he was a morale-booster for those who hate us and a constant infuriating reminder of our apparent impotence.  Taking him out the way it was done resolved both negatives, swiftly, thoroughly, and with a calm steely competence that we all can admire, even those (I am not one) who feel queasy about putting down even a mad dog.

How did you feel when our President demolished Trump at the dinner?  It was hilarious, yes, but wasn’t there also a sense of quiet satisfaction, of justice being done, that a despicable bully had been so thoroughly, so masterfully and decisively put in his place by his long-suffering target?  That’s part of why so many people, me included, have been walking around ever since the news about bin Laden broke with a huge grin on our faces.  I can’t help it, I’m not even consciously thinking about it and my face rears up into a satisfied smile.

So, consider this — President Obama has not only scored a national defense triumph that the Republicans failed for seven long years to achieve; he’s done it in a way that reaches right down into the emotional gut of a lot of people.  That’s got to suck mass quantities of oxygen out of the weak-on-defense meme, because it gets to people at the same level where the destructive memes do their vicious work.

Obama is who he is, and Osama was his fly, and folks are going to absorb this way down in the reptile brain where the GOPropagandists target their garbage.


Note: This diary expands upon a couple of my comments in the thread Osama bin Laden is Dead: Party Sunday Open Thread
by: Chris Blask

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  1. HappyinVT

    by the way) flailing the last couple of days has be sweet.  And, I’m sorry, but giving Bush credit is simply beyond the pale.  (Obama apparently did invite Bush to Ground Zero on Thursday but the latter declined.  I’ll pretend it is because he didn’t think it was appropriate because that may be true.)

    Most elected Republican officials have been noticeably quiet because they certainly can’t praise the Democratic president for doing what their own president didn’t do.  I will give Lindsey Graham credit where credit is due ~ his statement was quite appropriate.

  2. jsfox

    that relates to your diary from Joshua Green

    There’s a lot of debate right now about what effect Osama bin Laden’s death will have on the president’s poll numbers and his power in Congress. The most interesting data I’ve seen is this study from Public Opinion Strategies showing that the average “bounce” from a major national-security story is 13 points and lasts 22 weeks. But I think what’s most relevant here is somewhat more intangible: it’s that Obama now has a simple rejoinder to the crude attacks on his foreign policy. A good example of such an attack is the current (and spectacularly ill-timed) cover of the Weekly Standard** accusing Obama of “Leading From Behind.”

  3. jsfox

    From William Dobson over at TNR

    After the first year of his presidency, it was popular to call Obama the new Jimmy Carter. He appeared far too cautious, dithering, and contemplative. Why did he not speak out more boldly-and more quickly-when Iranians came out into the streets? Why did it take 94 days for him to discuss the proper strategy for Afghanistan, only to be savaged by the right and the left for increasing troop levels while announcing a deadline for withdrawal? Obama’s foreign policy decisions will still be critiqued, and rightly so. But, had Sunday’s mission gone horribly wrong, “Carter” would have tripped off the lips of every pundit. That would have been an obvious political risk to anyone in the room when the president scrapped the idea of a surgical missile strike in favor of an assault led by Navy SEALS. The mission could have gone wrong, but it didn’t. It was judiciously planned. Obama’s helicopters flew straight, and, when they encountered unexpected adversity-one of the helicopters engines stalled-they had a contingency plan to see the mission through successfully. The desire of a president to move decisively, combined with the patience to see to the details: Who is going to call Obama the aloof, contemplative professor now? The comparison to Carter died in Pakistan along with bin Laden.

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