Strange Bedfellows: The Weekly Standard and Obama

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The latest Weekly Standard opens with a remarkable editorial on Libya, offering some of the kindest words about the Obama administration you’ll ever read in the conservative media. It’s true that the Robert Kagan piece casts the fall of the Gaddafi regime as a triumph for “the United States and NATO.” And it isn’t until its seventh paragraph that President Obama’s name appears. But Kagan then declares that “the end of Qaddafi’s rule is a great accomplishment for the Obama administration and for the president personally.” He carries on in this vein, heaping praise on a president the Standard generally reviles and lampoons, while taking fellow Republicans to task:

Furthermore, the president deserves credit because his decision was unpopular and politically risky. The foreign policy establishment was almost unanimously opposed, and an assortment of wise men spent months predicting certain failure. In Congress a significant number of Republicans joined with the likes of Dennis Kucinich in opposing the military operation, to the point of voting not to authorize funding in June—a shameful moment for a party that under three consecutive presidents had stood for a robust and active U.S. role in the world. Some Republican presidential candidates, either out of opportunism or conviction, joined in opposition.

Many of the criticisms of the administration’s conduct were warranted…. But what’s new? American interventions, large and small, are never pretty. American presidents are always slow to see the need for action, always worried about their political backsides, and almost always looking for the exits as soon as they decide to act. Republican critics, especially those who served during the Reagan years or in either Bush administration, should look in the mirror….

The sputtering economy obviously gives Republicans a tremendous opening against Obama. But between the apparent success of the Libya operation; the killing of Osama bin Laden, his deputy, and countless other al Qaeda-affiliated militants; and a growing national consensus that the Afghanistan war should be wound down, Obama’s 2012 rivals will find it awfully hard to get traction against him on national-security issues. Unless, of course, Republicans start insisting that we bomb Iran.

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