Tragedy struck recently in Paris in which a series of ISIS attacks resulted in the deaths of over 150 people. Unfortunately, the GOP chose to play politics with the deaths of innocent people and and were quick to blame President Obama for the attacks. This stands in sharp contrast to the days immediately after the 9/11/01 attacks when the Democrats rallied around then President Bush during an international crisis.
GOP Presidential candidate and failed CEO Carly Fiorina alleged: “The murder, mayhem, danger and tragedy we see unfolding in Paris, throughout the Middle East and too often in our own homeland, are the direct consequence of this administration’s policies.” GOP rising star and establishment darling Marco Rubio went on social media to use the Paris attacks as a fundraising opportunity. Ben Sasse ally Ted Cruz went so far as to challenge the patriotism of the commander-in-chief during a crisis by saying: ““I recognize Barack Obama does not wish to defend this country.”
The unspoken assumption behind these irresponsible and dishonest GOP attacks on the President of the U.S. after our oldest ally was attacked was that they could do a better job protecting our country if the GOP is returned to power in the 2016 elections. Is there anything in recent history that would lead anybody to believe that the GOP is up to the job of keeping the U.S. safe?
The record of the most recent Republican President certainly calls into question the ability of the GOP to protect the American people. Beginning in the spring of 2001, then President Bush received (and ignored) several warnings that Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaeda were planning a series of spectacular attacks on America. Most memorably, on August 6, 2001, Bush received a memo from the CIA with the title: ” “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.” Just five weeks later, on 9/11, Al Qaeda accomplished that goal.
Shortly after these terrorist attacks, Bush publicly boasted that he wanted Bin Laden “dead or alive.” Unfortunately, the next seven and half years demonstrated that there was a huge gap between Bush’s cowboy like bluster and his Administration’s actual performance.
The Bush Administration got off on the wrong foot when its incompetence allowed OBL to escape from Tora Bora in December 2001. After that blunder, Bush no longer made the killing or capture of OBL a high priority. Instead, on March 13, 2002, George W. Bush said of bin Laden, “I truly am not that concerned about him.” Subsequently, in July 2006, the Bush administration closed its unit that had been hunting bin Laden. In September 2006, Bush told Fred Barnes of Fox News that an “emphasis on bin Laden doesn’t fit with the administration’s strategy for combating terrorism.”
Another factor that contributed to the Bush’s Administration’s failed search to find Bin Laden was it’s disastrous decision to invade Iraq and conduct a multi-year nation building project in that country. In the run up to the Iraq war in 2002-03, the Bush Administration assured the American people that U.S. forces would be greeted as liberators, the war would only last a few weeks, Iraqi oil would finance the reconstruction of that country and U.S. forces would find a vast weapons of mass destruction arsenal.
As it turned out, just about every pre-war prediction made by the Bush Administration turned out to be very wrong. No weapons of mass destruction were ever found. In addition the war ground on for over eight years and according to Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz, will eventually cost U.S. taxpayers $3 trillion.
After his inauguration on January 20, 2009, President Obama took a very different and much more effective approach to national security issues. As a starting point, in early 2009, Obama directed the CIA to make the killing or capture of bin Laden the top priority. It was, in other words, a major shift from the previous administration. Thanks to that change in priorities, Obama did in two and a half years what George W. Bush, despite all of his “dead or alive” big talk and swagger, couldn’t do in over seven years.
Bringing Bin Laden to justice isn’t the only success of President Obama’s national security and foreign policies. What is seldom mentioned by Democrats and the mainstream press is that President Obama is quietly compiling a list of significant achievements that will make the U.S. more safe.
According to Matthew Ygelsias, President Obama can justifiably claim credit for these accomplishments:
- A broad multilateral agreement to disarm Iran’s nuclear program.
- The New Start arms control treaty with Russia.
- The historic diplomatic opening to Cuba.
- New Pacific military basing agreements with Australia and the Phillippines.
- Bilateral agreements on climate change with China and India.
- An increase in positive perceptions of the U.S. in almost every region of the world.
The Republicans would like the voters to overlook President Obama’s achievements and focus on the chaos in the Middle East. However, what the GOP doesn’t like to mention is that this troubled region of the world has been a mess for decades. For example, President Reagan’s intervention in the Lebanese Civil War in 1983-84 resulted in 243 Marines being killed by a suicide truck bomber in Beirut in 1983. After the conclusion of the Desert Storm campaign in 1991, President George H.W. Bush stood by and allowed U.S. forces to literally watch Saddam Hussein’s forces brutally suppress a Shiite revolt in southern Iraq.
If a Republican were to be elected President in 2016, they would move national security policy in a much different direction by bringing back George W. Bush’s failed policies. At one time or another, Trump, Bush, and Rubio have all come out in favor of sending U.S. ground troops back to the Middle East to fight ISIS.
Any Republican President would have strong support from the Republicans in Congress for another ground war in that unstable region. Just last weekend, Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham demanded that President Obama send ground troops to fight ISIS in Syria and Iraq. They called for what they termed a “Syria surge” and cited the 2007-08 troop surge in Iraq as an example of what to do. Lest we forget, a grand total of 170,000 U.S. troops were in Iraq during the 2007-08 surge.
The so-called “conventional wisdom” from the mainstream press is that somehow the Republicans will have an edge on national security during the 2016 election cycle. The only way that the GOP can have that kind of edge is if there is mass amnesia among the voters about the GOP record on national security and foreign policy. We Democrats have the duty to refresh memories and constantly remind the voters that the GOP would bring back the failed policies of George W. Bush.
We have come a long way since the dark days of early 2009 when President Obama took office. Together we have worked hard to improve the country and make it a better place for our fellow Americans. The choice in 2016 is stark and simple. Are we going to hand over our country once again to the people and policies that crashed our economy before and that will destroy the progress that we’ve made? I say the answer is no. I’m confident that we will get our message out in 2016 and have a successful election cycle.