Monday, February 02, 2015

Blasting the Strawmen

Since Obama has no more elections to win he's of no mind to give pre-Superbowl interviews to anyone who might ask tough questions. It's all about controlling the national narrative now.  

To help, CNN broadcast an interview yesterday with the plagiarist, a preview of the attack strategy to be used in defining the narrative.   Discussing the threat of Islamic terrorism, Obama basically downplayed the whole thing then blamed Bush... again (shown in bold)...
"The truth of the matter is that they can do harm. But we have the capacity to control how we respond in ways that do not undercut what's the essence of who we are. That means that we don't torture, for example, and thereby undermine our values and credibility around the world," Obama said.
"It means that we don't approach this with a strategy of sending out occupying armies and playing whack-a-mole wherever a terrorist group appears because that drains our economic strength and it puts enormous burdens on our military."

Blaming Bush is the gift that keeps on giving with his base, but Democrats as a whole need to downplay terrorism.  Clinton did it in the 90s despite bombings, attacks and bin Laden's multiple declarations of war against America.  When challenged on it later by Fox's Chris Wallace he went ballistic, all while trying to make sure ABC News spiked its terrorism docudrama "the Path to 9/11".  It's hard to focus the country on taxing the rich and downsizing the Defense Department if Islamist terrorists are posing an existential threat against Western Civilization.

In 2004 John Kerry tried the tactic again, suggesting to the NY Times that terrorism should be treated as kind of nuisance.  That's one reason why the Dems don't want Bibi Netanyahu coming to Congress to remind people of the harsh realities.  It's also likely one of the main reasons Obama sent nobody to the anti-terrorism march in Paris.  In his old new narrative AQ is a nuisance, still on the run, and we need to fight them with smart power, using pinpricks and FBI agents like Clinton, and hey, deploying lots of troops to combat this diminishing threat is hard on the troops not to mention stupid like Bush.  That's basically his foreign policy in a nutshell.  

But Zakaria wasn't the annual pre-Superbowl interview, it was with the most friendly Obama mirror of all--NBC News.  Savannah Guthrie, a nice pleasant female anchor, was chosen to ask the questions.  Yet she seemed to put a small chink in the narrative by daring to call it a 'strawman argument'. Watch the reaction around the 1:35 mark...

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He looked rather peeved at this interruption, after all, he was getting to the crux of the narrative.  Oddly enough he mentioned that leaving (Iraq) caused the problem because the country wasn't ready to fight for itself, without blaming himself for leaving.  Suddenly now staying for years is the right thing to do.  Later in the interview the CinC actually said he is NOT downplaying terrorism by downplaying terrorism, but in a much more nuanced way than in the Zakaria interview (after the 11 minute mark).

Perhaps he felt like Guthrie might actually challenge him a little more and re-calibrated, although he did get in his "shoot first aim later" Bush-McCain-Romney bash comment in both interviews without challenge.

As to the strawman, not only Zakaria carried this theme on Sunday, but the Washington Post also featured a touching story on how Obama is deeply affected by the casualties of war:
Discussions of war and peace in Washington often revolve around abstract questions of policy and national interest. Rarely mentioned are the human costs of war and how they weigh on a commander in chief. “It’s probably the least appreciated and most difficult part of leadership,” said Michele Flournoy, who served at the top levels of Obama’s Pentagon. “It’s not an abstraction, and, if you have any doubt, it eats at you, because the human costs are very real.”

At the end of Zakaria's interview he had asked Obama to recommend a book. Without hesitation Obama recommended a book called "Redeployment" by Phil Klay. This was clearly not spontaneous, evident by the way Obama reacted to the question and the fact CNN put a cover of the book on the screen while they were talking.  Sorry, the control room isn't that good, so they were helping him make his point.

The book happens to be about a soldier's perspective on the cost of war. Clearly a good thing for a Commander-in-Chief to be reading and promoting, right? Right, unless he's doing it in cahoots with the MSM to fight a war against domestic political foes critical of his response to increasing terrorism.

So based on Obama's reaction one has to wonder if Guthrie went off the script when she blurted out 'strawman', which forced an abrupt interruption by the president, while later asking tough questions about whether terrorism was as defeated as he claims.  

Meanwhile, the 2016 budget came out today.  It has no chance of passage, but we'll see if media puppets the talking points of the wise and caring president trying to help the 'middle class' despite the same guy hardly mentioning the middle class before the mid-terms last November.

Back then the WH needed the black vote, so the press focused on Ferguson and New York and "reverend" Al coming in and out of the White House and pounding his fist, all while his fellow Democrats kept a 10 foot pole between themselves and the White House because they were so afraid of how the middle class might vote.  Where is Ferguson now?  

Now the WH needs to tamp down the threat of terrorism again, just like 2012 before Benghazi, so we'll see if the press comes along and helps like Candy Crowley did in the second debate.  The CNN and the WaPo examples would suggest that yes, nothing will change, but perhaps Savannah Guthrie's small but surprising 'truth to power' moment indicates that a few networks might try salvage a smidgen of credibility going into 2016.  Yes, right, we've been fooled before.

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