If rightbloggers have a theme song, it must be ABBA’s “Waterloo”: And how could I ever refuse/I feel like I win when I lose. Their obsessive rapid response to Obama-related events has only one purpose: to declare a big win for their side, no matter what happens and even if it renders their earlier statements ridiculous.
Case in point: last week they generally agreed that the capture of Captain Richard Phillips by Somali pirates was a big defeat for President Obama, because it was all his fault; and Captain Phillips’ rescue was also a big defeat for President Obama, because he had nothing to do with it. (We should note that a few of them were more gracious.)
A ripe example of this doublethink could be found at RedState, whose Warner Todd Huston loudly declared Friday that Obama had been defeated by pirates. “These skinny, underfed, unorganized and ill-equipped pirates are making a fool of what is ostensibly the most powerful man in the world,” he roared. He wondered aloud what would happen if “Obama allows the U.S. Navy to stand idly by as more pirates come to the scene of the standoff to float in solidarity with the four fellows holding captain Philips” — unaccountably failing to speculate, while he was at it, on the similarly relevant question of whether Batman could beat up Green Lantern.
Huston also raged that the President “sits at the picnic table watching his kids play in the White House,” when he should have been tensing his jaw photogenically, barking out orders, and white. And Huston yelled that “the French… THE FRENCH… use proper military force against these criminal pirates” — referring to a rescue mission that ended with the death of a hostage.
But getting the hostage killed has got to be the right way to run a rescue, because Obama didn’t do it. (Radio nutcake Tammy Bruce also praised the French hostage-killing mission — “Good for them for taking decisive action” — and Wake Up America said that “the only other option is to hand the pirates what they ask for.”)
After the rescue, RedState’s Caleb stepped in for the obviously spent Huston to declare, against all evidence, that “playing pansy politics with pirates put the Captain’s life at increased risk.” Obama’s responsibility for the debacle stopped exactly at the point at which it was shown not to be a debacle: The captain, said Caleb, “leapt clear and our faithful Navy, apparently at last free to take the safety off” — on the orders of Rush Limbaugh, presumably — “rid the world of three contemptible degenerates and have the fourth in custody to question. So the bold leap into the sea frees the President of the burden to act.”
Act? What was he supposed to do? Swing in on a rope like Captain Blood?
The RedStaters are clearly deranged, but other bloggers managed to convey the same talking points in a more reasonable tone — sort of “nice job but questions remain” approach.
Tigerhawk, for example, asked when the crew was first taken, “Why were these pirates not deterred by the prospects of a response from the United States Navy?” The obvious answer was Obama, who defiles everything he touches, even the U.S. Navy. Tigerhawk wanted to make sure we didn’t “let Obama off the hook,” and demanded to know, “Will we take action to restore our deterrence notwithstanding the serendipitous recovery of the ship by its own crew?”
When the “action” turned out to be blowing off three pirates’ heads and rescuing the captain, TigerHawk briefly and wincingly congratulated the President (“yes, I’ll say it,” he choked, “tip o’ the hat to President Obama”) before charging ahead: “What will we do with the prisoner? Do we believe that this action is sufficient to restore deterrence against piracy?” In his own comments section, TigerHawk immediately returned to beating up Obama: the pirates might have struck, he wrote, because they “had previously been worried that ‘cowboy Bush’ would hit back very hard, and thought that, er, not-cowboy Obama might respond with more restraint.”
One wonders whether pirates really think this much about geopolitics and, even if they do, wouldn’t head shots reverse their impression of American weakness? But TigerHawk still shook his fist: “We do not know yet whether the pirates reasoned their way to some such position, but we do know this: Our deterrence failed. We still need to know why, and we need to make sure it is restored.”
You have to expect them to spin it this way: first, because detaching Obama from victory is as much a part of their protocol as attaching him to failure (see, for example, Uncle Jimbo‘s lengthy explanation that Obama’s authorization of force didn’t count because the commander already had that authority — a remarkably strenuous attempt by a former servicemember to muscle the Commander in Chief off the victory stand, especially considering that Obama could have ordered them not to fire if he really wanted to be treasonous about it).
Second, because Obama’s a Democrat, and rightwing operatives are taught at an early age to call Democrats weak on military matters.
To prove their superior Republican toughness, some rightbloggers offered their own fantasy-camp ideas of how to handle piracy. Jules Crittenden suggested a scorched water policy, destroying all boats on or off Somalia’s coast. Later Crittenden admitted this would take innocent lives, and so proposed a more targeted Plan B which involved “decoy ships to ambush and kill pirates in the act,” gibbets, and imaginative disposal of pirate bodies (“Drop from altitude into the middle of suspect villages and piracy bases”). Still later he suggested “a kind of biblical terminology. Fire and brimstone, wailing of women and children, that kind of thing.”
Any readers who found his fantasies “a little too 18th century,” and “consider all this violence abhorrent,” Crittenden assumed would also believe that “the pirates are simply victims of dysfunctional society themselves.” So if you don’t see the utility of dropping pirate bodies on African villages — which would make a totally awesome video game — you are a caricature of a bleeding-heart liberal; you are, in the ancient warblogger usage, objectively pro-pirates! And so is Obama, whose pirate policy Crittenden said was all about “human rights lawyers and an excess of concern for the well-being of the larger pirate community.” So what if it was effective? It wasn’t badass like what Crittenden acted out in his bathtub.
Inevitably, some of the more philosophical rightbloggers got into What It All Means. National Review classics buff Victor Davis Hanson blamed Hollywood for showing pirates as “sexually ambiguous, cross-dressing, transgendered libertines… Who knows, maybe such esoteric theorizing has filtered down to the U.S. State Department.” No, we don’t know what he’s talking about, either, but it ought to play great with the senior citizens. Ed Morrissey blamed Sigmund Freud. Etc.
But by and large, rightbloggers handled the story like good little operatives. You can see this in a touching Twitter exchange between Tammy Bruce and a fan: After Bruce harshly denied Obama’s relevance to the rescue — “Somehow I don’t think the guy who dropped charges against scum who murdered 17 USS Cole sailors suddenly got it about killing the enemy” — Melinda Stone retweeted it, but without the first four words. Bruce rushed to correct her — “I was not praising Urkel, but ur RT makes it seem as tho I was :/”
Get the story straight, comrade: rightbloggers would rather display absurdly reflexive hatred of the President than give any impression that they would ever approve of something he did. We’re not sure how that’s supposed to work on voters who aren’t already rightwing lunatics, but maybe it’s not meant for them; maybe it’s some sort of test of loyalty and message discipline. If so, it was indeed a great success. Now all they have to do convince normal people to pay attention to them.