The American capacity to ‘absorb’ adversity

THE AMERICAN CAPACITY TO ‘ABSORB’ ADVERSITY…. Bob Woodward has a new book, “Obama’s Wars,” which will be released on Monday. Based on news accounts this morning, the crux of the text will be about the tense debate among leading officials last year over how to shape U.S. policy in Afghanistan.

This morning, it appears one quote from the book in particular is sparking interest.

Woodward’s book portrays Obama and the White House as barraged by warnings about the threat of terrorist attacks on U.S. soil and confronted with the difficulty in preventing them. During an interview with Woodward in July, the president said, “We can absorb a terrorist attack. We’ll do everything we can to prevent it, but even a 9/11, even the biggest attack ever . . . we absorbed it and we are stronger.”

This strikes me as an eminently sensible thing to say. Of course Americans can absorb an attack and come out stronger. What’s the alternative? That an attack permanently destroys the American psyche, leaving us cowering under our beds for the foreseeable future?

We’re better — and stronger — than that. We mourn, we rebuild, we bring justice to those responsible, we make every possible effort to prevent future attacks, and we move forward. It’s a testament to the American character and the strength of the fabric that holds us together. We get knocked down; we get back up.

The metaphor that comes to mind is that of a boxer known for “absorbing” punches. It doesn’t mean the hits don’t occur, and it doesn’t mean the punches don’t hurt, but the pugilist who can “absorb” the hits and keep on going tends to win in the end.

Except, conservatives don’t see it that way. Indeed, the right has already begun throwing a tantrum over the president’s remarks. Fox News’ Gretchen Carlson suggested Obama is “inviting” an attack. (Gretchen, “Bring it on” invited another attack; saying we can absorb violence does not.)

John Bolton appeared on Fox News to declare the president’s comments “outrageous,” adding, “How can an American president say that as if he’s a detached observer and doesn’t care about Americans dying?” Bolton went on to say Obama’s words “proves” he’s not qualified to be president.

Expect Republicans, who take their cues from their cable network, to start repeating this nonsense later today.

Is it me, or is our discourse actually managing to get dumber?