Obama's end zone dance

May 04, 2012|By David Horsey

This week, Republicans have been criticizing President Barack Obama for his surprise trip to Afghanistan marking the one-year anniversary of the killing of Osama bin Laden. By accusing the president of hyping the commemoration, they apparently hope to undercut the political potency of his biggest foreign policy coup. Instead, the GOP critics may merely make themselves look a bit silly.

They must think Americans are suffering from amnesia and cannot recall President George W. Bush and his Top Gun moment back in 2003. Just in case anyone really has forgotten, allow me to recap. Mr. Bush tucked himself into a flight suit emblazoned with the words "commander-in-chief," climbed into a Lockheed S-3 Viking fixed wing aircraft and helped fly and land it on the deck of an aircraft carrier, the USS Abraham Lincoln, just off the California coast. There, under a huge banner declaring "Mission Accomplished" (a banner the White House initially denied, but finally admitted, was their creation), the president said, "In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed."

Though years premature in claiming victory, President Bush and his team were clearly staging an event they thought would provide great footage for future campaign ads. Mr. Bush's spectacular makes Mr. Obama's brief round of handshaking with troops in Afghanistan look pretty lame by comparison.

Nevertheless, Fox News commentators, Romney campaign spokesmen and congressional Republicans have all taken their shot at President Obama. Interestingly, quite a few of them have taken exactly the same shot. Over and over again, the same image was invoked; Obama was "spiking the ball" like a boastful wide receiver in the end zone.

Whoever the geniuses may be behind these coordinated political attacks, they need to get a little more creative. When everyone from a first-term Kansas congressman to a Fox TV talking head to Rush Limbaugh employs the same sound bite, it is not hard to guess they are reciting from the same Republican National Committee talking points. Perhaps, such repetition pumps up the conservative faithful, but it looks pretty ridiculous when Jon Stewart pulls together a string of video clips showing the entire Republican sales team squawking away like a flock of parrots.

"Spiking the ball" may not be the most politically savvy jibe anyway. After all, the guy who is spiking the ball is the guy who just made the touchdown. That sort of reinforces the image the Obama folks want lodged in the minds of voters: President Obama as the captain of the team that brought down the country's most notorious adversary.

Spiking the ball only may make grumpy referees mad, but the crowd loves a winner.

Two-time Pulitzer Prize winner David Horsey is a political commentator for the Los Angeles Times. Go to latimes.com/news/politics/topoftheticket/ to see more of his work.

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