By Paul Goldman
Mark Warner has the right idea, but he has chosen a very hard subject, namely the budget, to demonstrate bipartisanship. Foreign policy has historically been far easier in terms of bipartisanship, as the votes for any number of military and foreign policy actions demonstrate over the years. Yet rarely is there such an easy lay-up as is available right now, but being missed: a public effort to bathe both former President Bush and President Obama in sincere, bipartisan praise for having not flinched in a ten year hunt for Bin Laden. A White House dinner for Bush and his anti-Obama team, a Joint Congressional Resolution, even a Medal named after Bush for anti-Terror achievements should be considered.
In public relations, there is an old saying: You don’t have to sell sizzle when you have sizzle. The killing of Osama Bin Laden needs no hype, no packaging, no breast-beating, it is an event which speaks for itself without any embellishment.
It is one of those rare situations where Democrats can heap praise on Bush knowing, in the end, the benefit goes to the incumbent who got Bin Laden. But for some reason, the White House is reluctant to do go the Full Monte, thus risking an overboard situation in the public mind relative to giving themselves too much credit. This is the classic example of the old adage about Babe Ruth pointing to the stands, allegedly, in Chicago promising a homer. If he had instead it a triple, the headline would read: Ruth Fails To Hit Homer.
Obama will get all the credit the public wants to give out, history has shown this time and time again. Thus being generous in your praise is best since it allows you to get points on another dimension. The more Obama praises others, the more praise he gets in return. It is a mutually beneficial feed-back loop.
The more Democrats show an appreciation for Bush’s efforts to get Bid Laden, the Bush and his team will have to praise Obama or they lose credibility with the public.
This is May 2011: George Bush41 saw his poll numbers rocket to 90% approval for winning the Gulf War a year before the election. By May 2012, he was political toast.
Bottom line: The key players on the ground in that part of Asia and at the CIA/DOD are likely the same in most regards for the last 10 years in the sense of their being professionals not political appointees. As we now know, they started tracking this courier years ago during the Bush Administration.
“Getting Bid Laden” is just one stop on the road, albeit a huge one. The big risk at home is being seen as failing to appreciate the work of those who went before you. Only Obama can say he got Bin Laden. So if you ever wanted to show a sincere bipartisan approach, this may be the easiest opportunity the White House will get short of a hot war.
Former President Bush established an image as an anti-terror warrior. His policies helped get Bin Laden. The White House apparently fears praising Bush too much is a trap since they disagreed with his “enhanced interrogation techniques” which got some key INTEL.
This is an unwarranted fear. There is nothing the Republicans can credibly say of a negative nature about Obama’s success here. Former President Bush knows that. Remember, the Tea Party started in good measure due to their dislike of President Bush’s economic policies. Bush is no friend to the Tea Party. There is a good chance the Tea Party will dictate the next GOP presidential nominee.
If President Obama plays his cards right here, he may find Bush, who still has a lot of friends, willing to praise the President’s anti-terror policies next year. That would be a huge blow to the GOP nominee. But warranted now and even more so if the White House praises Bush in a sincere way.
Bush is all about his legacy now. In turn, this focuses on his anti-terror war. Justified praise of Bush now can reap big Obama rewards next year.