COMMENTARY | In the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings, conservatives are beating the drums again, sounding the alarm that President Obama is soft on terrorism again. It’s a completely different argument than the one they were advancing just before that tragedy.
Conservatives Mona Charen and Matt Towery penned columns knocking Obama for being soft on Islamic extremism, not rushing to judgment, not mentioning terrorism on the opening day, and trying to remind us all that diversity is an American strength and we need to be inclusive of all faiths.
Towery was dismayed that we would be going through the traditional civilian court system with the bombing survivor. Charen claimed we were less safe under the Obama administration when it comes to terrorism.
On the morning of April 15, the conservative mantra was actually radically different. The hero was Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, who engaged in a lengthy filibuster against CIA nominee John Brennan (one of the officials responsible for leading the effort to take down Osama bin Laden), criticizing America for having an open-ended drone policy that could kill American citizens suspected of being involved in terrorism. He was cheered at the Conservative Political Action Committee earlier this year for his stand against drone strikes.
Paul has been joined by Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, the darling of the tea party, for attacking the administration’s policy on using drone strikes and developing a kill list of terrorism.
Some of those killed include Anwar al-Awlaki, as well as Samir Khan. Both worked to inspire terror attacks in America, especially the ones Charen singles out the administration for being soft on (Fort Hood shooting, Time Square bombing, “Underwear bombing”). In fact, Khan’s newsletter calling for terror attacks on America, and providing a “how to” manual, was called “Inspire.”
Even thoughPaul seems to be wavering on drone policy (after flip-flopping on the issue after the Boston bombing according to Forbes magazine, he flipped right back on Sean Hannity’s show, so no one really knows where he stands), Cruz kept on bashing the administration for drone strikes against terrorists a full week after the Boston Marathon.
Charen claims the U.S. is less popular in the Muslim world since Obama took over. Amazingly, she claims it is due to our withdrawal from Iraq (because the al-Maliki government wanted prosecutions of American soldiers in Iraqi courts, a detail Charen forgot). Could the drone strikes against al-Qaeda and the killing of Osama bin-Laden be a more likely rationale for the anger? She brings up neither in her argument, probably because it would undermine her case.
As for dismay about using our civilian courts, not designating terrorists as enemy combatants destined for Gitmo, using torture, or allowing terrorists to “lawyer up,” how have those terrorists that went through the U.S. judicial system fared? The verdicts for the underwear bomber and would-be Times Square bomber were life in prison, or about to be. The Fort Hood shooter was a member of the military, so his case involves a military tribunal. The case against Nidal Malik Hassan is expected to conclude in September.
It is likely the drums will keep beating this “soft on terrorism” line long as Obama is in office, while successful drone attacks and prosecutions of terrorists in civilian courts will continue to go on as well.
John A. Tures is a professor of political science at LaGrange College in LaGrange, Ga.