Boy, could that have been awkward!
You know that moment that happens sometimes when somebody says something or does something and nobody else knows quite how to react to it, and so there's all this hemming and hawing and clearing of throats until somebody finally figures out something else they can talk about instead of the thing they very clearly don't want to talk about?
That's exactly what it was like last week, when Muammar Gaddafi went down.
Now, 99 times out of 100, the fall of Muammar Gaddafi would be an occasion for celebration: the success of a popular uprising (and of the international coalition that provided critical support to that uprising), the end of a brutal and decades-long dictatorship, the possibility of democracy extending its reach to a part of the world so long deprived of it. Those kinds of things. Good stuff.
And 99 times out of 100, there'd be tons o' praise for anyone who'd helped bring about this happy outcome -- not just the rebels themselves, and not just the foreign cavalry flying to the rescue in the nick of time, but even the leaders of the nations who'd come up with the approach that actually helped achieve those excellent goals reasonably quickly, at a reasonable cost, and with minimal risk to the troops involved.
"Way to go!" you'd be hearing. "Great job!" everyone would be shouting -- 99 times out of 100.
Or maybe it's just 43 times out of 44.
President Obama is 44.
And there's a certain segment of the population -- maybe you've noticed -- who'd rather swallow hot coals for breakfast than direct even a syllable of praise in Barack Obama's direction.
Often these people are called: "Republicans."
Let's not be too quick to generalize, though; there are exceptions. In fact, there are Republicans who, when it came to Libya, were quite willing to give credit where credit was due. John McCain comes to mind. And...
And that's more than you can say for the Republicans running for president this time around.
You might describe their praise for America's commander in chief as grudging. Or you might describe it as non-existent. They could somehow manage to say complimentary things about the rebels, about the pilots, about the British, about the French, about --
The French?! These people were more willing to praise the courage and military prowess of the French than the strategic and tactical skills of Barack Obama?!
Take all the praise the Republican presidential contenders offered the incumbent president on Libya, drop it into a thimble, and you'd still have room for the entire Fox News lineup and their compliments.
"Can we talk about something else?" "Can we please change the subject? Please??"
And suddenly, there was President Obama, changing the subject. Just a day after announcing the fall of Gaddafi, he was at the microphone again, announcing plans to withdraw the last of our troops from Iraq.
He may have thought that Gaddafi's demise, following so quickly on the heels of Osama bin Laden's demise, and Anwar al-Awlaki's demise, would immunize him at least a little bit from the standard GOP charge of chronic Democratic weak-kneedness. He may even have thought that implementing the very same troop-withdrawal deadline that had been negotiated by his (Republican) predecessor would quiet his perpetual critics, if only temporarily.
Those presidential wannabes jumped on the Iraq news like a mongrel dog on a porterhouse. One day of supreme awkwardness about Libya was all they had to endure -- they were right back in their comfort zone, back on the attack. And a good thing, too:
It's hard to run for president with your fingers in your ears.
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Rick Horowitz is a syndicated columnist. You can write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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