I know, I know: Post-Gazette columnist Jack Kelly is a virtual piñata for online commentary. Both 2politicaljunkies and Cognitive Dissonance enjoy taking the piss out of him. In fact, if it weren't for those guys, I probably wouldn't pay Kelly any heed at all.
But I confess I was actually looking forward to Kelly's column this past Sunday. How, I wondered, was he going to try to slight the importance of Osama bin Laden's death? After all, Kelly is the paleoconservative who routinely portrays Obama as a feckless combatant in the war on terror. As he once put it:
What Americans want -- and our enemies fear -- in a war leader is firmness and decisiveness, which Franklin Roosevelt displayed after Pearl Harbor and George W. Bush displayed after 9/11. Mr. Obama is president in wartime. But his speech made it plain he isn't a wartime president.
So how would Kelly respond to the stunning news that Obama was firm and decisive enough, at least, to whack the terrorist mastermind who killed thousands of Americans? That Obama got the guy George W. Bush, for all his alleged firmness, could not capture?
Well, he starts by complaining about timing of the press conference.
The White House asked the networks for time at 10:30 p.m. EDT. But it was more than an hour later before Mr. Obama spoke. By then the news had leaked out, and many people had gone to bed.
We're told the delay was because the president was still working on his remarks. If so, it wasn't worth it.
"The first part of the announcement, evoking 9/11, was vulgarly overwritten," said Washington Post film critic Stephen Hunter. "The adjective-bloated compote was unworthy of the subject, banal and self indulgent."
Certainly you can see why this is very important for Kelly to address from the outset. Lesser columnists might usher in ther piece with remarks from a national-security expert. Only Kelly has the savvy to lead in with a film critic. Not even Maureen Dowd tried pulling that one off!
I mean, don't get me wrong: Killing the architect of 9/11 is fine, if you're concerned about the security of the free world and stuff. But still: You don't fuck around with the Sunday night primetime schedule. I mean, 10:30 is right in the heart of Brothers & Sisters; you can't just put Sally Field's fans in a holding pattern like that! And how is Jack supposed to enjoy Desperate Housewives with this uncertainty hanging over him? Even in death, it's like bin Laden won.
But remember the good old days, when conservatives mocked Obama for giving good speeches? The fact that he could engage in soaring rhetoric was regarded as somehow ... suspicious. Now Kelly is climbing on his back if the speech isn't moving enough. It's as if Kelly is saying, "Okay, well, I guess when it comes to defeating our enemies, Obama can be as resolved as FDR. But still! Worst. Fireside chats. Ever."
(Related query: If Jack Kelly had been writing back during World War II, do you think he'd have been lauding FDR's stalwart courage then? Show of hands?)
Kelly did acknowledge that bin Laden's death was "the greatest success of Barack Obama's presidency." (Though given what Kelly thinks of the rest of Obama's presidency, even that may be damning with faint praise.) But apparently, Obama's failure to correctly spin Obama's death is more telling than his success at having it carried out.
Specifically, Kelly scoffs at the White House decision to not release photos of bin Laden's lifeless corpse:
"Most Americans would enjoy seeing a body recognizable as bin Laden with half his head blown off," he sagely writes.Kelly provides no basis for that assertion, and in fact polling data suggests the opposite is true: Nearly two Americans in three agree with the decision to not release the photos. Even if that weren't the case, I'm not sure it matters. A large number of Americans would also enjoy seeing pictures of Desperate Housewives star Eva Longoria naked. That doesn't mean the president should be distributing them.
But the real crux of Kelly's grousing comes here:
[Obama] succeeded [in killing bin Laden] only by ignoring his views as a candidate in 2008.
When President Obama sent SEAL Team Six rather than the FBI after bin Laden, he opted for a military solution. Candidate Obama said terrorism was primarily a law enforcement problem.
Vital clues to bin Laden's whereabouts came from al-Qaida bigwigs interrogated in secret CIA prisons and at Guantanamo Bay. Two apparently didn't divulge their secrets until they were waterboarded.
Waterboarding is torture, Candidate Obama said. He promised to close Gitmo, but it's still open.
Yes, Gitmo is still open, despite Obama's promises on the campaign trail. (Well spotted, Jack!) But everything else here is absolute nonsense.
Dayvoe at 2political junkies has already deconstructed the assertion that waterboarding led to actionable intelligence in bin Laden's death. But the other laughable assertion here is that by ordering that death, Obama The President has somehow turned his back on Obama The Candidate.
In fact, the bin Laden hit delivered on one of Obama's campaign promises. Here's Obama discussing terror during a presidential debate with GOP rival John McCain:
[I]f we have Osama bin Laden in our sights and the Pakistani government is unable or unwilling to take them out, then I think that we have to act and we will take them out. We will kill bin Laden; we will crush Al Qaeda. That has to be our biggest national security priority.
What part of that did Jack Kelly fail to understand? This wasn't just some throw-away line: It was at the heart of a major foreign-policy dispute that sucked up quite a bit of oxygen during the campaign's debate season.
But hey, why bother checking the historical record -- especially when you can rely on the expertise of a guy who calls into the Rush Limbaugh show?
Which is, no shit, exactly what Kelly proceeds to do:
[S]ome doubt Mr. Obama played as substantive a role in the bin Laden hit as the White House is claiming.
"I believe that President Obama's hand was forced in this," said "Gregg," who said he was a retired Navy SEAL, in a call Tuesday to the Rush Limbaugh program.
Stop the presses! A caller to Rush Limbaugh is unimpressed by President Obama's job performance! And this guy claims to have been a SEAL, so it's not like he's just any jackass listening to talk radio.
Kelly also cites unnamed, unsourced "reports" that Obama "kept the SEALS wating for 16 hours before giving the green light." For all we know, these reports came from a ninja, named "Earl", who posted on Glenn Beck's Facebook page. But who cares? As Kelly observes, such alleged behavior "sounds more like the Barack Obama we're familiar with," so why not print it?
No doubt some folks at the Post-Gazette are reading this and rolling their eyes. They know, as I do, that complaining about Kelly is pointless. He's not going anywhere.
Why not? Well, I can't say for sure. But people who are predisposed to dislike Kelly sure have their theories. And one of them -- a samurai named Eugene who sent me a tweet -- speculates that Kelly got his column-writing gig for two reasons:
1) Years back the Post-Gazette did a reader survey, and discovered that its audience was far more conservative than the paper's mix of columnists. So they dredged up Kelly to toss some red meat to them.
Are these allegations true? Maybe not. Will evidence emerge to support them? Perhaps, but if not -- I hope you'll forget I ever said any of this. In any case, they sound like the Jack Kelly we know, don't they? So who are we to question it?