Where credit is due

    Now that Moammar Gadhafi has been summarily dispatched, thanks largely to a multinational strategy crafted by the Obama administration (and, by the way, Gadhafi is the fourth major bad guy killed on Obama’s watch in 2011 alone), we can bask in the hilarity of the fumbling Republican response.I’ll happily confess that I had many questions about the Libya policy at the outset of war last spring, in the earliest days when the Obama team was not communicating its methods and aims particularly well. But the team long ago attained the proper cruising speed – working with NATO, using our superior technology, nurturing intelligence sources, getting our European allies to share costs and shoulder much of the burden. The result is that Gadhafi went down without the loss of a single American, and at a cost to taxpayers of only $2 billion – which is roughly equivalent to what George W. Bush spent on his Iraq misadventure every six days.But you’d look in vain these past 24 hours for anything more than a grudging acknowledgment, from the foreign policy neophytes currently seeking the Republican nomination, that Obama deserves any credit for Libya. Rick Perry said the death of Gadhafi “is good news for the people of Libya,” while ignoring the Obama policy that helped make it happen, thereby leaving the impression that Gadhafi kicked the bucket via natural causes. Michele Bachmann said “the world is a better place without Gadhafi,” while still insisting that Obama should never have sought to make the world a better place without Gadhafi. Newt Gingrich hasn’t said much of anything at all, which is probably a blessing, given the fact that he could never figure out his stance on Libya in the first place. (Last March 8, he said that Obama should intervene in the burgeoning Libyan crisis; on March 23, after Obama intervened, Gingrich said: “I would not have intervened.”)The gold standard, however, is Mitt Romney. Here he was back in the spring, on a right-wing radio show, when Obama was first crafting his multinational strategy: “The president has been unable to construct a foreign policy, any foreign policy…What is it that explains the absence of any discernible foreign policy from the president of the United States?…And without a compass to guide him in our increasingly turbulent world, he’s tentative, indecisive, timid, and nuanced.”That was Romney then. This was Romney yesterday, reacting in Iowa to the news about Gadhafi:”It’s about time. Gadhafi (was a) terrible tyrant that killed his own people, and murdered Americans and others in the tragedy in Lockerbie. The world is a better place with Gadhafi gone.”Nothing about Obama. Nothing about the Obama-crafted strategy that was crucial to the success of the rebels on the ground. But later, when reporters caught up with Romney and asked him whether Obama warrants any credit at all, he said over his shoulder, “Yes, yes, absolutely” before darting away. Which was a fortunate move on his part, because, had he stayed, he might have been compelled to say whether he still believes, in the wake of the Libya success, that Obama is “tentative, indecisive, timid, and nuanced.”But what else could we expect from Romney, a guy whose sum total of foreign policy experience is two years as a young Mormon missionary in France? A guy who apparently has voiced five positions on Libya.Actually, the Republican candidates would lose nothing politically if they showed some class and gave the commander-in-chief some credit. Americans are so focused on the domestic economy that Obama’s string of major foreign policy successes haven’t boosted his standing. Obama could personally parade down Pennsylvania Avenue with Kim Jong-il in chains, and most voters wouldn’t care (especially those who would be asking, “Who’s Kim Jong-il?”).But the candidates would never cede such a thing, because it’s a violation of Republican dogma to acknowledge that The Other has ever done anything right. The irony, of course, is that The Other has already dwarfed Bush in terms of foreign policy achievements. As commentator Andrew Sullivan blogged yesterday, “To rid the world of Osama bin Laden, Anwar al-​Awlaki and Moammar Gadhafi within six months – if Obama were a Republican, he’d be on Mount Rushmore by now.”——-You have to feel bad for Herman Cain. The guy probably got into the race to raise his profile, sell some books, and boost his speaking fees. But now that he’s the flavor of the month, a status that inevitably heightens the scrutiny, his ignorance of the nuances of Republican politics is being woefully exposed.For instance, on CNN the other night, Cain declared: “I believe that life begins at conception. And abortion under no circumstances.”But when host Peirs Morgan quizzed him on whether he would bar abortions for women impregnated by rapists, Cain said this: “It’s not the government’s role or anybody else’s role to make that decision….It ultimately gets down to a choice that that family or that mother has to make. Not me as president, not some politician, not a bureaucrat. It gets down to that family. And whatever they decide, they decide. I shouldn’t have to tell them what decision to make for such a sensitive issue…I can have an opinion on an issue without it being a directive on the nation. The government shouldn’t be trying to tell people everything to do, especially when it comes to social decisions that they need to make.”Oh dear. You just uttered a political no-no, Mr Cain. That’s no way to win Iowa, where evangelical Christians dominate the Republican caucuses. Say goodbye to those voters, sir. Why? Because you just failed their most important litmus test. You have to understand how these people think. They think that government is evil, that government is Big Brother, that government is over-regulating and meddlesome…except in the realm of private morality. That’s where Big Brother is OK. When it comes to an issue like abortion, they believe that government absolutely should be telling people what to do, and what social decisions they need to make. They think that your opinion on abortion should be a directive to the nation. In their view, government doesn’t belong in the boardroom, but deserves carte blanche in the bedroom.Does that make sense to you, Mr. Cain? No?Me, either.——-Follow me on Twitter, @dickpolman1

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