iOS app Android app More

Phil Bronstein

Phil Bronstein

Posted April 15, 2009 | 02:53 PM (EST)

Obama's Measured Pirate Reaction -- Just Like a Democrat?


So, where's the parade? The carrier landing? The Presidential dress-up in sniper camo, binocs, and scoped rifle?

If these were the martial days of the Bush or Reagan White Houses, Sunday's pinpoint sharp shooting and victory over a bunch of pirates would be followed by triumphant spectacle. We didn't even have to go to the movies and watch Daniel Craig pull off awesome, evil-fighting stunts with cool aplomb. There it was right on cable, with how-they-did-it tutorials.

But is there something inherently un-Democratic Party about heralding a military success? When Bill Clinton carpet-bombed Kosovo back into Western compliance, there was likewise no horn tooting, unless you consider Monica. But that also involved NATO, it was controversial, and it was Bill Clinton.

This is our new guy, our popular President, and three, clean, center shots on the high seas, threading the needle on a bobbing boat, wasting unabashed bandits (it's about money, after all; think Bernie Madoff) and saving a heroic and much-profiled US ship captain.

I'm not sure what the lifetime tally is on terrorists, but a graphic graphic from buzzfeed.com shows the score on which of our commanders-in-chief back to McKinley has knocked off the most pirates: Barack H. Obama. He's probably done in more seadogs than any president at all since Thomas Jefferson battled the Barbary Coast brigands in 1801 (that's where "to the shores of Tripoli" comes from in the Marine's hymn; sorry Navy SEALs.)

The Jefferson experience on the other Barbary Coast -- in SF we think we're the only one -- tells us this phenomenon is nothing new. Even the money thing has been standard practice for centuries. The Pasha of Tripoli demanded $225,000 from the then-new President to stop waylaying ships, and that was back when money that large bought you a lot more than a used Bentley.

The muted, measured response from the current White House about successfully taking out some buccaneers does seem to be new, however. Usually, if you got it, you flaunt it, right? Every spec of forward momentum goes into the spin maw and comes out a public celebration. Especially when you're scouring the globe looking for any good news these days.

Instead, Mr. Obama was at Georgetown droning on about the history of financial "instruments" and fiscal policy. He "tempers optimism with reality," says a Yahoo News headline. That's like watching "My Dinner With Andre" when you really wanted "Quantum of Solace."

Maybe it's style. After all, this president is the antithesis so far of the "hah! Take that! whether-you-like-it-or-not!" arrogance. Or maybe it's just that when you're the only political party whose leader has dropped nukes, everything else is prologue.

For more, read Bronstein at Large.