The Candidate is the kind of liberal movie Hollywood just doesn’t make anymore. It was breezy, smart, not too preachy, and it turned a critical eye on both sides. The very last line of the movie was spot on, as young Senator-elect Bill McKay — modeled very much on RFK — turns almost to the camera and asks, “What do we do now?” He’s been so focused on winning the election, he has no clue what to do next. Like the dog who finally catches the car. Biting, brilliant, honest political commentary.
Where did that Robert Redford go, is what I’d like to know.
Anyway — that movie line came to mind this morning after a quick glance at the Drudge Report.
The plan for killing Osama Bin Laden was perfectly conceived and as perfectly executed as any special forces operation since Israel’s raid on Entebbe. But the follow-through has been strange at best, sometimes bordering on incompetence.
First, there was that weird burial at sea “in accordance with Islamic tradition.” There, the White House managed to annoy most everyone. There are those like me, who thought Bin Laden’s corpse was treated with too much respect, to those in the Islamic world now inflamed because it wasn’t really done properly after all.
Then there was the president’s oddly bloodless speech Sunday night. For almost ten years we’d been trying to get the guy who murdered 3,000 Americans, attacked our military HQ, and ripped the heart out of the New York City skyline. The effort spanned two continents, four or five countries, a Caribbean Navy base, and the persistent efforts of two presidents, the American intelligence community, and the best of the best of our special forces. And yet President Obama sounded as if he were announcing a “worthwhile Canadian initiative.”
Now the Administration can’t even decide whether or not to release a photo of the body. They didn’t have a PR plan in place before the killing? It must be amateur night at the White House, because what I’m hearing sounds increasingly like karaoke. More specifically, a Last Call group chorus of “My Way,” with the participants too drunk to remember all the words.
It looks so ugly in DC right now, that it lends credence to the wacky (or so I thought) report that Obama himself couldn’t make up his mind to order the attack, forcing CIA chief Leon Panetta to make the call. Valerie Jarrett was the source of the president’s wishy-washiness? Clinton’s people were leaking like a cracked dam to prod Obama into action?
It’s enough to make you wonder just how many powers there are behind this throne.
Look at the famous Situation Room picture again.
The president’s eyes appear steely, but his posture is all wrong — huddled into his chest, seemingly filled with doubt. He looks like the smallest person in the room, and I don’t necessarily mean physically. I’m sure other pictures from that night are much more flattering, but this is the “iconic” one the White House chose to represent the president at his decisive best. Doesn’t anyone there have a clue how the president looks here, once the euphoria has faded?
The example the David Axelrod must be thinking of right now is President George H.W. Bush, who enjoyed 90% approval following the Gulf War — and then went down to electoral defeat less than two years later. People didn’t much care for Bush’s broken tax promises or his handling of the sharp Recession of 1991-’92. That example just might be keeping him up at night, back home in Chicago. Judging from the incoherent Administration efforts post-Bin Laden, no one in the White House is losing any sleep.
They ought to be.