Exorcising party demons

EXORCISING PARTY DEMONS…. I tend to think much of the mockery Jimmy Carter receives is gratuitous. He wasn’t an especially good president, but the ridicule he receives, even now, decades later, often seems unnecessary.

That said, Carter remains a symbol of a “failed Democratic president,” and Dems bristle at any comparisons to him. With that in mind, reader J.T. emailed last night with an interesting point I hadn’t thought of. Noting the work that went into the mission in Abbottabad, J.T. noted, “The whole scene to me was eerily similar to Pres. Carter’s failed attempt to rescue the hostages in Iran.”

J.T. added, “In both cases it was a high-risk, high-reward gamble. In both cases mechanical failure disabled a helicopter at a crucial moment in the mission. And in both cases there were serious political as well as national security consequences. The major difference is Carter’s gamble failed where Obama succeeded. And the impact on the national psyche in both cases has been dramatic, in opposite directions.”

William J. Dobson has a good piece in The New Republic today, emphasizing a very similar point.

[T]here is another reason why this event is hugely important for the foreign policy of this president: A Democratic president opted against ridding the world of its most wanted terrorist by lobbing a missile from 30,000 feet above. He sent helicopters in on a daring raid with a clear mission and plan for exit. In one fell swoop, President Obama has done more to exorcise the demons of Democratic foreign policy error and mishap than anyone in the last three decades. This was not Operation Eagle Claw over Iran. This was not the bombing of a pharmaceutical factory in Sudan. This was not another Black Hawk Down.

After the first year of his presidency, it was popular to call Obama the new Jimmy Carter…. [H]ad Sunday’s mission gone horribly wrong, “Carter” would have tripped off the lips of every pundit. That would have been an obvious political risk to anyone in the room when the president scrapped the idea of a surgical missile strike in favor of an assault led by Navy SEALS.

The mission could have gone wrong, but it didn’t. It was judiciously planned. Obama’s helicopters flew straight, and, when they encountered unexpected adversity — one of the helicopters engines stalled — they had a contingency plan to see the mission through successfully. The desire of a president to move decisively, combined with the patience to see to the details: Who is going to call Obama the aloof, contemplative professor now? The comparison to Carter died in Pakistan along with bin Laden.

I’d argue the Carter comparison was always rather ridiculous, and was put to rest when President Obama racked up huge legislative wins over his first two years. But if we’re looking for political bookends, with Eagle Claw on one end and the killing of bin Laden on the other, that works for me.