For much of last year, Republicans celebrated Russian President Vladimir Putin as an exemplary leader they wished President Obama would emulate. A few crises, invasions, and economic collapses later, the right quietly decided their Putin affections may have been misplaced.
More recently, however, Republicans settled on a new favorite: King Abdullah of Jordan. At one point last week, Family Research Council President Tony Perkins suggested Abdullah was “responding in a more direct and authoritative way to these attacks of ISIS than our own president,” prompting Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) to respond, “That is true. Other countries seem to be doing more or taking it more seriously.” (It’s not true; U.S. airstrikes on ISIS targets far out number Jordan’s.)
Fox News was so enthralled with Abdullah that “The Daily Show” devoted a whole segment to the Republican adulation for the Jordanian king.
It looks like conservatives will now have to pick a new foreign leader to adore.
Fox News has been talking up King Abdullah of Jordan for weeks as a strong leader going after ISIS in contrast to President Obama’s ineffectiveness. He opened up about the fight against ISIS in an interview with CNN’s Fareed Zakaria yesterday, talking about how this is the “third world war by other means.” But beyond that, he actually said something that the people at Fox might not be so keen about, when he showed agreement with President Obama in not calling ISIS Islamic extremists.Fareed Zakaria asked if Obama is right not to call ISIS “Islamic extremists” and King Abdullah said, “I think he is right.” He said that ISIS is “looking for legitimacy that they don’t have inside of Islam” because they are “outlaws on the fringe of Islam.”
Remember, in some Republican circles, President Obama’s military offensive against ISIS doesn’t count and is better left ignored. What really matters is the president’s word choice – much of the right is heavily invested in whether the president uses phrases like “radical Islam” and/or “Islamic terrorism.” Whether Obama’s broader national security strategy is effective is largely irrelevant.
Except, here’s King Abdullah of Jordan – the man the right has cheered on in recent weeks – reminding Americans that Obama is right and Republicans are not.
“What these people want is to be called extremist,” the Jordanian leader explained. “They take that as a badge of honor…. To label Islam under the term of extremists and moderates is actually completely wrong. So I think by making this comparison that they’re extremist Muslims actually is working exactly what these people want. No, we are Muslims. I don’t know what these people are. But they definitely do not have any relationship to our faith.”
And just like that, the right’s love and affection for Abdullah will now vanish.