“When you come after Americans,” President Obama said in his State of the Union address, “we go after you.” To help prove his point, Obama added, “If you doubt America’s commitment – or mine – to see that justice is done, just ask Osama bin Laden.”
Appearing on MSNBC yesterday, Chris Christie was unimpressed. “We’re all very proud and happy that our SEAL team was able to murder Osama bin Laden and bring him ultimately to justice, and I commend the president for authorizing that action,” the governor said. The presidential hopeful added, however, “That was a long time ago now.”
I kept expecting Christie to take the obvious next step, paraphrase Janet Jackson, and ask, “Who have you killed for me lately?”
Christie isn’t alone, of course. Marco Rubio believes the president is only fighting a “rhetorical” war on terror. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was asked the other day about whether Congress might eventually authorize the mission against ISIS that began in 2014. The Republican leader balked. “I don’t want to tie the hands of the next president,” McConnell told ABC. “The next president may want to actually defeat ISIL.”
The implication, obviously, is that this president doesn’t actually want to defeat the terrorist group.
Presumably McConnell knows about the 9,560 airstrikes the Obama administration has launched against ISIS targets – nearly five times the number of the rest of the world combined – but the GOP senator chooses not to notice.
There are all kinds of important questions to ask about the White House’s approach to counter-terrorism. Is it working? Are we deterring and preventing future threats? Are we acting within the rule of law? But policymakers never get to these questions because Republicans prefer to pretend the president is simply indifferent to terrorist threats – the bin Laden mission notwithstanding.
Revisiting a piece from several weeks ago, maybe GOP officials and candidates would benefit from a refresher. It was last month that the Obama administration confirmed “the death of the Islamic State’s senior leader in Libya, known as Abu Nabil, who was targeted in a Nov. 13 U.S. air strike carried out by F-15 aircraft on a compound in the city of Derna.”
And shortly after that, the Obama administration said a U.S. military strike also killed a senior leader of al-Shabaab in Somalia.
Those strikes came on the heels of U.S. forces taking out the al Qaeda operative “in charge of suicide bombings and operations involving explosives,” which followed U.S. forces also killing the top official in al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
Finding Osama bin Laden’s successor in al Qaeda has been made difficult because President Obama has ordered strikes that have taken out “seven potential candidates” slated to lead the terrorist network.
And this doesn’t even get to the administration’s success in killing the leader of al Qaeda in Yemen or the perpetrator of the Benghazi attack, both of which Obama mentioned Tuesday night.
I’m reminded again of this piece in The Atlantic, in which Jeffrey Goldberg, hardly a liberal, wrote, “Obama has become the greatest terrorist hunter in the history of the presidency.”
To listen to Christie, the president’s record effectively stops in 2013. To listen to Rubio, the White House’s entire approach to counter-terrorism is “rhetorical.”
The question then becomes, do they not keep up with current events, or are they trying to deceive the public?