President Obama’s speech today defending his conduct in the war on terror was notable for what he was defending it against — not against the soft-on-terror (and maybe sorta-kinda-Muslim) attack that Republicans have lobbed against him since he first ran for president, but against critics on the left.
It is a sudden and welcome turnabout. When Obama first appeared on the national scene, he was a political novice, a liberal Democrat who had made his name opposing the Iraq War, a constitutional law professor, and his middle name was Hussein. The need to defend his hawkish credentials was an, and perhaps the, essential task of his 2008 election. And the dynamic persisted throughout his first term, as Republicans used events like Obama’s attempt to close the Guantanamo Bay prison and the Christmas bomber to revive their weak-on-terror caricature.