Hoping to exploit Middle East unrest for partisan gain, Republican policymakers hit the Sunday shows yesterday to blame President Obama for last week's developments. Unfortunately for the right, their talking points are very hard to take seriously.
On "Face the Nation," Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), making his 17th Sunday show appearance of the year, said violent protests broke out in the region last week because the U.S. has a policy of "disengagement." And why does McCain think that? Because "we're leaving Iraq. We're leaving Afghanistan."
No serious person could believe this. For one thing, as ongoing drone strikes help demonstrate, the Obama administration is heavily engaged in the region. For another, by McCain's rationale, the only way for the U.S. to remain truly engaged is to deploy tens of thousands of U.S. troops into perpetual wars, which is both wrong and dangerous. And how this explains last week's riots is anybody's guess.
But House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Peter King (R-N.Y.) went even further.
For those who can't watch clips online, King, whose often-ugly background on these issues makes him a poor voice to speak for his party, immediately launched into a bizarre tirade. The Republican congressman said the president had an "apology tour," adding that it actually happened "no matter what people say." What a healthy attitude.
And then King's answer got even worse.
"From the day he started his apology tour back in 2009 where he was, no matter what people say, apologizing for America, somehow suggesting that we've been anti-Islam until he became the president throughout -- the fact that -- even talking about Iraq, the way he took our troops out of Iraq without even getting the status of forces agreement. He was given a glide path in Iraq. And yet he pulled the troops out, brags about the fact that troops are out, gives a definite date for getting out in Afghanistan. What he is doing by that is telling our allies they can't trust us and he's also telling unaligned that the U.S. is not a reliable ally."
None of this makes any sense at all. Obama never apologized for America and his withdrawal policies have been embraced by our allies, including Iraq. The fact that the chairman of the Homeland Security Committee seems to have embraced a vision of the Middle East that's wholly at odds with basic tenets of reality is not at all encouraging.
But even putting that aside, King's strange rant was in response to a question about last week's developments. In other words, in King's mind, violent protests broke out throughout the Middle East and North Africa because of imaginary presidential speeches and the end of U.S. wars in the region.
I realize there's a presidential election in seven weeks, and confused politicians will say just about anything to serve a larger partisan agenda. But given the seriousness of the crisis, Pete King put on a terribly sad display yesterday.