The wrong message for the wrong issue

Updated
 
The wrong message for the wrong issue
The wrong message for the wrong issue

The U.S. State Department issued an unusual warning on Friday, alerting U.S. citizens traveling abroad to an al Qaeda threat that led American diplomatic outposts to close throughout the Middle East and North Africa. As of this morning, many of those same diplomatic posts remain temporarily shuttered due to the terrorist threat.

For the most part, the possibility of an attack hasn’t been politicized, at least not by policymakers – House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Mike McCaul (R-Texas) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) praised the Obama administration’s handling of the threat on the Sunday shows yesterday.

But Igor Volsky noticed a different approach from Fox News personalities and guests. Former Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) said on the network, “Our attempt to placate parts of the world … and the perception of weakness in this administration is encouraging this kind of behavior.” Fox News contributor Peter Johnson Jr. added, “Is this a creeping abdication of American exceptionalism?”

I’ll confess, it didn’t occur to me that Fox would even try to exploit the closing of embassies for partisan gain. And yet, here we are.

But if they’re really interested in having this conversation, maybe it’s time to bring back this chart.

There’s just no reason for the kind of rhetoric being repeated on Fox. The idea, apparently, is to blame President Obama for the existence of the threat – were it not for the “perception of weakness,” U.S. foes wouldn’t even consider possible attacks on our diplomatic outposts.

The problem, of course, is that reality keeps intervening. Indeed, looking at the argument with the above chart in mind, Fox seems to be arguing that Reagan encouraged terrorist threats with his weakness, while President Obama has done the opposite.

This last came up in the immediate aftermath of the attack in Benghazi, when Republicans coalesced around an offensive talking point: if Obama projected “strength,” there wouldn’t be terrorism because our enemies would “respect American resolve.”

The cheap rhetoric didn’t make any sense at the time, and the argument hasn’t improved with age.

I can appreciate why Republicans are a little defensive on the broader issue – they like to think the GOP owns national security, but it was the Obama administration that got Osama bin Laden, crushed much of al Qaeda’s international network, and prevented a series of deadly attacks.

But there’s no excuse for their frustrations to play out in such an ugly way.

Counter-Terrorism and Foreign Policy

The wrong message for the wrong issue

Updated