For decades, from McCarthy through McCain to Romney, the GOP has slandered Democrats as unAmerican, weak on defense, or, as Dick Cheney said in 2004, if Kerry won "we'd get hit again." Maintaining that tradition, Mitt Romney last year repeatedly called President Obama "an "appeaser" -- and, in a charge without an iota of evidence, "apologizes for America." As if that were too subtle, Republican leaders like Newt Gingrich have displayed near-Tourret's Syndrome in using "Hitler" in association with a President in wartime... as well as repeating or winking at the claim that the American president wasn't American.
No, both sides don't do it. Democrats robustly criticized Bush-Cheney for invading the wrong country on false pretenses, leading to hundreds of thousands of unnecessary deaths and lost trillions... but did not say or imply that they didn't believe in America and favored our enemies. For evidence of the unrelenting conservative slander, watch any night on Fox News.
Having taunted him as a weak commander-in-chief, now comes John McCain complaining that Barack Obama is sounding too strong.
Since context counts, here's the history on the efforts to get the man who killed nearly 3,000 Americans on 9/11: Bush let bin Laden slip through his grasp at Tora Bora in December 2001 and added three months later, "I'm not very concerned about him." Mitt Romney in 2007 said that "it's not worth moving heaven and earth to get one man." In his own campaign for president that year, Barack Obama was chided for saying that, if he had actionable intelligence, he would authorize going into Pakistan to "kill bin Laden." Then as President he ordered a renewed effort to find him, did receive actionable intelligence, listened to half his national security team oppose a raid, ordered the back-up helicopter that became necessary and gave the green light to a raid over a bombing, risking his presidency. (Then, for good measure, he cooly did brilliant stand-up at last year's White House Correspondent's Dinner.)
Reminders of this success has infuriated McCain. "Shame on Barack Obama for diminishing the memory of September 11th and the killing of Osama bin Laden by turning it into a cheap political attack ad." Is he trying to become the definition of a sore loser in dictionaries everywhere?
John McCain was a war hero a half century ago in a bad war. But since then, he can't find a conflict we shouldn't add troops to, continuing to defend the madness of Iraq, regretting we're not still there. He truly appears to a Japanese soldier emerging from the caves decades later having learned nothing. Where was he when his allies were slandering the other party as appeasers? Or when W wore that flight suit on the deck of the Abraham Lincoln in 2003?
With the prosecution of the war against al Qaeda being one of the top foreign policy issues this election year, how can the Obama campaign not discuss it? Does anyone doubt the GOP response if there had been an al Qaeda attack on our soil after Obama had been warned about one, as Bush was in the Presidential Daily Briefing in early August, 2001 and when terrorism czar Richard Clarke couldn't get a meeting about such matters for nine months? If failure would provoke McCain's condemnation, how can success now gag Obama?
Complaints about spiking the football are not only hypocritical but also unconvincing against a president famously reluctant to be a chest-pounder (except about basketball). For that, think of Rudy Giuliani using 9/11 as a noun-and-verb in every sentence when that bragging was about a colossal failure of American intelligence and planning.
Would that virtue would be its own reward. Or that the presidential contest was beanbag or an Oxford Union debate. So I also disagree with my friend Arianna Huffington who called "despicable" the campaign ad with Bill Clinton lauding Obama for the bin Laden raid. It would be political malpractice not to remind voters, repeatedly told by rivals that Obama is a weakling, that "bin Laden is dead and GM is alive." Or as is said about libel law, truth is a defense.