Michael Hirsh documents how the Obama administration is going to position the president during the campaign:
In a powerful one-two punch, The New York Times and Newsweek have just come out with extensively reported articles demonstrating how personally and deeply involved Obama is with killing terrorists--a lot of terrorists. Even to the point of occasionally taking out innocents. (Both stories are very detailed followups to an article National Journal/Atlantic published a year ago.)
The question is, now that the image of Obama-as-hard-power-president seems to be settling in as conventional wisdom, how will that play at the polls? Recent results, for example the NYT/CBS poll in April, suggest that Obama and Romney are evenly matched when it comes to commander-in-chief credentials. That's actually pretty good for a Democrat, indicating that at worst Obama may have successfully neutralized what has traditionally been a GOP strong point.
Expect a lot more of this hard-power-sell from Obamaland in the months ahead. As we reported some months ago, the Obama camp is gearing up to present the president as the toughest Dem on national security since JFK -- throwing off, at long last, the Vietnam albatross that has weighed the party down since LBJ split the Dems over that unpopular war and Ronald Reagan took up the banner of strong-on-defense. No surprise: both the NYT and Newsweek pieces (the latter is excerpted from a book) indicate that the administration was quite cooperative on the reporting.
Many progressives have desperately wished for this outcome - that a Democrat could finally "own" the issue of national security - but I can't imagine they're happy with how President Obama has done it. In fact, far from developing a new doctrine, or proving the efficacy of diplomacy or demonstrating the saliency of "smart power" - President Obama is simply trotting out a pile of corpses as his national security bona fides.
Politically, one can sympathize with the idea that a president who has liquidated the U.S. commitment in Iraq and is attempting to draw down in Afghanistan and cut U.S. military spending would seek some "hawkish" policy as political cover. But whatever else one can say about it, it's far cry from refashioning the national security debate in the U.S. And it goes a long way to explaining why Governor Romney is choosing to attack President Obama from the hawkish/interventionist side. There appears to be no political downside to interventionism - despite the fact that the U.S. is deeply in debt or that 'victories' like the one in Libya are dubious achievements at best.