It was a year ago that Times Square and Ground Zero were packed with patriotic party-goers and SEAL Team Six enthusiasts. Bin Laden had been wiped off the map; the Man America Hated met his red-white-and-blue maker and, for a few seconds, everyone breathed a sigh of relief – a rare sense of unity in these dismally polarized times. Unfortunately, these sort of brotherhoods are temporary and, now, the two possible future leaders of this country are squaring off on the biggest bounty the Empire has ever seen.
Last week, at NYU Law School, Vice President Joe Biden was the first official from the Obama administration to come straight out with the bloody accusation. He mentioned that the President’s decision to execute “speaks more powerfully to the differences” between the candidates than anything else – not income, Obama/Romneycare, or political views; just that split-second order to kill. Since then, Biden’s words have translated into a campaign soundpiece, labeled as a “one chance” decision, from Bill “Bubba” Clinton and the head honcho himself.
In other words, what the Obama administration is saying is that Mitt Romney would not have killed Osama Bin Laden if given the chance. It is an attack strategy that truly targets a candidate’s core values, and that kind of political engineering deserves its time underneath the microscope.
Let’s think about this: If Romney were President at the time, would he have given the go-ahead to SEAL Team Six to take out Bin Laden in Pakistan? At play in this question are conflicting moral, ethical and space-time issues. What the Obama administration is, at first, bringing to the dining room table is whether or not the Republican candidate (pardon our French) has any balls. Bin Laden’s death is the coup de grace of the Democratic foreign policy; it’s one of his few accomplishments over the past three years that Obama can directly point to and proudly say to America, “Yeah, all me.”
So Romney’s counter-argument is not that surprising: “Even Jimmy Carter would have given that order.” When someone questions your courage, it is human nature to point to a known weaker figure as a scapegoat - in this case, a bean farmer and Democrat from Georgia who history textbooks have designated as the balls-less President.
Moving even further, the Romney tent and its GOP headmasters have been freaking out over the incumbent’s newest line of argument, saying that it politicizes an event that all Americans agree was a thumbs-up moment for Uncle Sam. And that’s stupid for them to say: if you know one thing about our deranged system, it’s that everything is political. From Obama’s boring news slow jam on “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” to that terrible Super Bowl ad with Clint Eastwood, we apply polarism to the most mundane of topics, simply because it gives us something to senselessly yap about and that’s what we do best.
But that’s not why the Osama argument doesn’t make sense. It is a talking point that relies on a non-existent timeline. It’s taking a schoolboy fantasy – like the scenario of Al Gore as President during 9/11 – and turning into a Memento quasi-reality. Think about what the Obama camp is saying: “Go back to 2008, put Romney in the Oval Office and give him the tools necessary to take out Bin Laden. Trust us, it wouldn’t have worked out.”
None of those things happened, though, because “what if” moments are faulty syllogisms that contain no concrete, real-time evidence. Hypothetical situations are supposed to be speculated upon, not answered and most certainly not made into a campaign narrative. But what if Obama did? And what if a thousand Floridians had the flu that November afternoon twelve years ago?