As of late, many on the right have been filled with dread that the recent assassination of Osama bin Laden will increase Barack Obama’s chances of being re-elected. On the one hand, this concern is legitimate enough, for bin Laden’s is the face of the world’s most infamous terrorist, a monster that, in spite of having authored the deaths of nearly 3,000 of its citizens, succeeded in eluding the American government for the last decade. Although Obama has been in office for slightly over two years, he can take credit for presiding over not just the identification of bin Laden’s whereabouts, but his killing.
On the other hand, there are considerations that militate against this concern regarding a second Obama term.
First, while it has only been a little more than a week since we were informed of bin Laden’s death, there has already emerged a host of conflicting accounts concerning the details surrounding it. The specific content of these statements is irrelevant; the mere fact that they are multiple and mutually incompatible alone suffices to strengthen the growing perception that this administration is the enemy extraordinaire of “the transparency” that it promised.
Second, it is difficult for the president and his fellow partisans in politics and the media to rebut Republicans’ claim that if not for the very policies of his predecessor—the policies, that is, to which Obama and company staunchly objected and which he pledged to revoke—bin Laden would never have been found. Fortunately, from the Republican’s perspective, the best efforts of the Democratic-friendly media have been to no avail in excising this feature of the narrative of the pursuit and killing of bin Laden from the average voter’s consciousness.
Third, the election of 2012 is still a year-and-a-half off. Already, the bin Laden buzz is beginning to give way to other news. Rest assured, while the hyperbolic characterization of Obama the War President will intensify during the months and weeks leading up to November of ’12, Americans are not likely to forget the reasons that lead many of them to form Tea Parties, hold massive protest demonstrations, and flood the voting booths in record numbers to throw Democrats out of office during the last midterm. At any rate, they will not be likely to forget such reasons as long as the Republicans continually call them to mind.
What seems to me certain is that no one is going to either vote for or against Obama on the grounds that he presided over the military at the time that it located and assassinated bin Laden.
Of course, the Republicans have their part to play in all of this. Not only must they be forever vigilant in reminding Americans of the Democrats’ aggressive domestic policies, they must as well insure that they nominate a remotely attractive candidate. A truly attractive candidate must specify not only the respects in which he differs from Democrats, but as well those by way of which he parts ways with those Republicans who American voters repudiated in ’06 and ’08.
But this isn’t all.
A truly attractive candidate must not only promise to restore his party’s integrity; he must have the credibility, and be seen as having the credibility, to make such a promise.
Sadly for the GOP, no potential establishment candidate fits this bill.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that Republicans will lose if they run an establishment Republican, however. A candidate who can credibly eschew the policies of both his own party as well as the party of his opponents is truly attractive because he is truthful. An establishment Republican figure, in contrast, may be what I refer to as a remotely attractive figure, for while he may prove stylistically appealing, it is only by way of deception and trickery that he will labor to convince voters of his conservative credentials.
This insincerity will all too easily prove exploitable by one’s opponents and be exposed for the hypocrisy that it is.
In other words, “remotely attractive” candidates begin with the burden of a substantial disadvantage from which “truly attractive” candidates are free.
My call for a “truly attractive” candidate shouldn’t be—though it surely will—be confused with the call for an “ideal candidate.” The notion that those of us who express our disenchantment with this or that Republican are “purists” foolishly holding out for an ideal candidate is a straw man of the first order. By definition, ideal candidates don’t exist; that’s what makes them ideal. Like legions of conservatives, I desire, not an ideal candidate, but a good one.
No, ultimately, the killing of bin Laden will not positively impact Obama’s prospects for re-election. And if the Republicans run a good candidate, all else being equal, it is a virtual certainty that as of November 2012, our 44th president will be heading back to the Windy City.
Jack Kerwick, Ph.D.