The final two talking points

THE FINAL TWO TALKING POINTS…. When you cut through all the awkwardly-worded talking points, Republicans complaining about President Obama’s handling of the attempted terrorist attack on Christmas day have exactly two arguments: 1) the president took too long to respond publicly to the failed attack; and 2) he doesn’t use the word “terrorism.” That’s it; that’s the whole case against the White House.

The complaints are, at face value, superficial. They have nothing to do with national policy, per se, and everything to do with rhetoric and style. Indeed, Rep. Pete King (R-N.Y.) admitted as much last week when he said of the Obama administration, “Let me make it clear, I think they are doing the right thing as far as their policies.” Of course, “their policies” aren’t as important to King as their rhetoric, as he conceded yesterday.

If the complaints were merely shallow, that would simply be annoying. But the key to remember here is that the two talking points are as wrong as they are dumb. The first point is easily dismissed by noting that President Obama’s response to this failed attempt was faster, more thorough, and offered more depth than President Bush’s response to an identical attempt eight years ago. If Obama’s strategic decision to delay a response three days signals “weakness,” than Bush’s six-day delay in 2001 would have to be condemned by conservatives everywhere.

The second point, however, is best debunked by this video, put together by the estimable Jed Lewison.

Jed reminds us, “Keep in mind that while this video features snippets from over two dozen different speeches (including at least one from each month of Obama’s presidency), it represents only a small fraction of what the President has said about terrorism and national security.”

The accusation that the president and his team decline to use the words “terror” or “terrorism” wasn’t just some off-hand line uttered by a Fox News personality — it was a charge levied repeatedly by Republican House members, senators, and a certain former vice president, all of whom insisted with a straight face that the Commander in Chief refuses to use a word that he’s repeated over and over again throughout his presidency.

The entire basis for two weeks of GOP accusations is nothing but a pathetic lie. There’s simply no other way to put it.

But let’s not let the media off the hook here. The GOP attack dogs keep lying, and major news outlets keep letting them. Every time King, Michael Steele, Jim DeMint, Pete Hoekstra, and others made this charge on the air, there was a journalist conducting the interview. And in every instance, the journalist just let the lie go out to the public, with no pushback at all, despite the fact that the claim is demonstrably ridiculous.

Worse, as Greg Sargent noted on Monday, DeMint not only told the lie on CNN without consequence, but several major outlets ran with his accusation without telling the public how obviously wrong it is. This, in turn, encourages the attack dogs to repeat the lie, knowing it’s more likely to undermine the president if Americans don’t realize how wrong it is.

My point isn’t that the administration’s national security policies are beyond reproach, or that we should avoid a debate over how best to prevent future attacks. My point is we can’t have that debate because one side of the divide is stuck with absurd talking points that are debunked, as Rachel Maddow put it last night, by “anyone who has a spare 45 seconds and the Google.”

There are, I suspect, knowledgeable conservatives somewhere, ready to engage in a serious policy discussion. If they could come out of hiding and maybe run for Congress, we’d all be better off.