in the aftermath…#2

Following is the second in a series of opinions reacting to Osama bin Laden’s death, which I am sharing.

Bin Laden’s Last Challenge–to Republicans
by William McGurn

Osama bin Laden is dead; New York celebrates a...

Image by Dan Nguyen @ New York City via Flickr

In life, Osama bin Laden‘s ability to elude capture for almost a decade after 9/11 challenged the American claim that no enemy is beyond her reach. In death, the al Qaeda terrorist now presents a new challenge, mostly to Republicans hoping to run in 2012. The message is this: You better have a coherent foreign policy to go along with your fiscal agenda.

It’s not just that Barack Obama is looking strong. For the moment, at least, he is strong. In the nearly 10 years since our troops set foot in Afghanistan, a clear outcome remains far from sight, and many Americans have wearied of the effort. As President Obama reminded us Sunday night, getting bin Laden doesn’t mean our work there is done–but his success in bringing the world’s most hunted man to justice does reinvigorate that work.

It does so, moreover, in a way that few of Mr. Obama’s recent Democratic predecessors in the Oval Office have matched. The killing of bin Laden was no one-shot missile strike on a Sudanese pharmaceutical factory suspected of making chemical weapons, as ordered by Bill Clinton. Nor was it a failed hostage rescue in Iran a la Jimmy Carter. Instead, it was a potent combination of American force and presidential decisiveness.

SEALs in from the water.

Image via Wikipedia

First, Mr. Obama authorized a ground operation with Navy Seals far inside Pakistani territory. Second, he did not inform the Pakistanis.

These are the kinds of hard decisions that presidents have to make, where the outcome is likely to be either spectacular success or equally spectacular failure. For taking the risks that would paralyze others, and for succeeding where others have failed, the president and his team have earned the credit they are now getting.

Yes, in the days to come we may learn that the real story is a little more complicated than the one Mr. Obama gave us Sunday night. Did enhanced interrogation play a role in generating vital intelligence? And about that order to the CIA to get bin Laden: Wasn’t that a modification of an order given by George W. Bush after 9/11?

Nevertheless, in going after and getting bin Laden as forcefully as he did, Mr. Obama has just undermined one of the primary narratives against him–that of an indecisive president who worries more about the rights of our enemies than the freedom and safety of our citizens. If Mr. Obama ends up toppling Moammar Gadhafi too, he will look even stronger.

In fact, even weaker policies–e.g., cutting defense, pulling out from Afghanistan, might now be argued from a position of strength: “I said I would get us out of Iraq, and I did–and Iraq is stronger. I said I would prosecute our real enemies in Afghanistan, and I did–and we got bin Laden. It is true that I am reluctant to commit America to overseas conflicts. But when we are engaged I will finish the job.”

Do Republican candidates even have an answer? Apart from Sen. John McCain and Sarah Palin, few Republicans even talk about foreign policy. Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty probably comes closest to offering a coherent vision, having come out for a robust foreign policy that backs up our friends and takes on our enemies without apology.

Within the GOP, however, there remains a strain that is deeply suspicious of U.S. involvement overseas, especially since the end of the Cold War. The irrepressible Ron Paul, of course, has been most explicit. Before announcing he wouldn’t run in the GOP presidential primaries, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour sounded a similar note when he complained about trying to turn Afghanistan into Ireland and suggested we start shrinking our troop presence there.

2012 Republican Presidential Candidates

Image by DonkeyHotey via Flickr

As for the rest, the former governors from last time around (Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee) seem to be hedging their bets. Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels served under President Bush, but he would hardly be confused for an advocate of any freedom agenda. For the most part, the Republican hope appears to be that eight-plus-percent unemployment along with six-dollar-a-gallon gasoline will be enough to defeat Barack Obama.

They may be right. Certainly one forceful strike is no guarantee that Mr. Obama will be re-elected, much less that he will follow-up with other muscular acts. But it does make the argument against him weaker. Up to now, Republican candidates seem to have believed they had been gifted with the second coming of Jimmy Carter.

President Obama makes surprise visit to Bagram...

Image by DVIDSHUB via Flickr

If Republicans are smart they will recognize that this meme took a big hit when a Navy Seal put a bullet in bin Laden’s head. Along with his decision to ramp up the war in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the president now has the opportunity to present himself in a way few Democrats ever have: as more hard-nosed about protecting the American people from foreign threats than his Republican opponents.

(Write to MainStreet@wsj.com)

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two housewives, “founders of tea party movement”

I’d always wondered whether or not ordinary housewives could run the country. Looks like last night’s election proved that they can. Evidently we can do the extraordinary, when we decide to put our passion and energies behind a task. I’m sure all women will agree that’s a “no-brainer.” When wives and moms decide to do something, they do it, like Margaret Whitman, creator of the multi-billion dollar business, E-Bay.

Sarah Palin’s first brush with the media was as a beauty queen. Setting her sights on politics, she became mayor of little known Wasila, and then governor of Alaska, and then GOP candidate for VP. While she and McCain lost the presidential election, Palin landed back in front of the cameras. While she may not have been the media’s darling then, mainstream reporters seem to be back pedaling now. This morning on CNN, the political spin-meisters spoke of her as a force with which to be reckoned, especially in the 2012 election. OMG, I thought! Talk about going the “way the wind blows.”

I’m a liberal, too compassionate to turn my back on those needing a “hand-up.” My husband and I, both from large families, 12 and 9 siblings, respectively, are inclined to “give back,” and “pay it forward.” But I do understand the frustration of those on the unemployment lines, those who are barely making “ends meet,” those whose homes are “under water” because of foreclosures next door, those whose businesses are struggling, those who want a balanced budget, those who want less government, and those of us on Main Street who are fed up with the millionaires on Wall Street. Might I just add here, why are we still making millionaires of athletes, and celebrities, and doctors “playing” the Medicare system? I’d just as soon take all the money we’re pouring into these peoples’ pockets, and help the homeless, the abused, those unable to get health insurance.

While I may disagree with conservative efforts to take the country backwards, I have to applaud Amy Kremer and Jenny Beth Martin, Atlanta housewives who are the geniuses behind the Tea Party movement. According to the Wall Street Journal’s  “Birth of a Movement-Tea Party Arose from Conservatives Steeped in Crisis,” on 10/29, both women “were 30-something suburbanites…frustrated by recession, dismayed by the election of Barack Obama and waiting for the next chapter of their lives.” Quitting her career as a Delta flight attendant to raise her daughter, Kremer turned to blogging after becoming an empty-nester, “one on gardening, one on politics. ‘I had this empty space in my life’… Ms. Martin, a software manager by training and part-time blogger, was cleaning houses to help pay the bills after her husband’s temporary-staffing business collapsed. They were in danger of losing their home.” Martin was enraged after Senator Saxby Chambliss, in whose campaign she had been a volunteer, voted in favor of President Bush’s bail out of Wall Street banks. In her estimation, ” ‘Sometimes it stinks when your business goes bad. But it’s part of our system….The government doesn’t need to come in and hold a business up and keep it from failing.’ ”

In the span of a few weeks in February and March 2009, the two women met on a conference call and helped found the first major national organization in the tea-party movement. Within months, they became two of the central figures in the most dynamic force in U.S. politics this year.

Ms. Kremer, 39, currently chairs the political action committee known as the Tea Party Express. It has raised millions of dollars for upstart candidates and engineered the campaign that threatens Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.). Once shy about public speaking, today she crisscrosses the country addressing thousands at a time. ‘Are you ready to fire Harry Reid?’ Ms. Kremer bellowed to a crowd of 2,000 in Reno, Nev., this month.

Ms. Martin, 40, is national coordinator of the Tea Party Patriots, an umbrella group claiming affiliation with nearly 3,000 local groups around the U.S. Leaving her young son and daughter at home, she is on a 30-city tour, revving up activists for the victory she is counting on next Tuesday.

‘This was something I had to do,’ Ms. Martin says. ‘There were just so many of us who were fed up with the Republican Party.’

 Comprised mostly of middle-aged, middle-class citizens with little political experience, “a braid of many strands of discontent and passion, ranging from opposition to illegal immigration and a national sales tax to support for gun rights. A vocal faction questioning Mr. Obama’s legal eligibility to be president provided another source of grassroots fuel.” If John McCain’s campaign was a “babe” in the internet “woods,” the Tea Party political machine seems hell-bent on giving Obama’s proven internet savvy a “run for its money” in 2012.

Many conservatives felt Sen. John McCain’s presidential campaign had never fully exploited the Internet to raise money and unite disparate activists. The Obama team had proven deft at harnessing technology.

And so the TEA PARTY MOVEMENT was born online, in the internet universe.

  • Michael Patrick Leahy, a Nashville technology consultant,  built a network of like-minded activists
  • Eric Odom, among the above, compiled a large list of activists “through a group working to lift the offshore-drilling ban”
  • Stacy Mott, started a blog for conservative women, “Smart Girl  Politics,” launching a website by the same name which drew in Kremer and Martin from Atlanta
  • Keli Carender, arranged the first protest, drawing 120 like-minded activists, after it was broadcast on a local talk-radio show and written up online by Fox news consultant Michelle Malkin
  •  On 2/19/09, in response to the $75 billion dollar bailout for homeowners unable to pay their mortgages, CNBC financial commentator Rick   Santanelli  started the “rant” when, broadcasting live from the Chicago Board of Trade, exclaimed ‘This is America! …How many of you people want to pay for your neighbor’s mortgage that has an extra bathroom and can’t pay their bills?’ To the cheers of traders behind him, he continued ‘We’re thinking of having a Chicago Tea Party in July’… “The rant went viral.”
  • After massive internet organizing among all of the above parties, 50 rallies occurred simultaneously nationwide. Within a year, 2,000 local tea party groups were formed around the country.
  • Wealthy interests threw their support behind the movement, like Americans for Prosperity and FreedomWorks, “groups born from a conservative think tank formed in the 1980s by members of the Koch family, who run oil-and-gas conglomerate Koch Industries Inc.”
  •  On 4/12/10, Kremer said she wasn’t boasting in claiming ‘I started this’ when she began a social-networking website called “Tea Party Patriots,” the name her husband recommended.
  • Enter the media. Fox TV’s Glenn Beck “launched his own initiative, the 9/12 project,” as well as touted the Tea Party’s 4/15 rallies, as did Sean  Hannity, and blogger Malkin.
  • Hundreds of thousands of “tea partiers” “gathered in city halls, at post offices, at town squares, parks, and along busy streets.
  • The “Tea Party Express” was formed when Sal Russo, Reagan’s adviser in the 60s and 70s, re-energized a 2008 political action committee, Our Country Deserves Better, as a “tea-party-themed group.” With Joe Wierzbicki, a colleague, they spread the word on a cross-country bus tour. In 2 years the newly christened group raised more than $7 million.
  • Tea Party Patriots, among them Kremer and Martin, maintained a nonpartisanship stance, preferring to stand for issues, and not endorsing specific candidates. On the other hand, Tea Party Express “wanted to raise money for candidates and engineer campaigns.”

The break between the two factions of the Tea Party movement, found its momentun when Obama pushed for massive, health-care reform.

  • FreedomWorks, in its “Healthcare Freedom Action Kit,” suggested ways to omit socialized medicine from the budget.
  • A Patriot coached members on how to “Rock-the-boat…’Watch for an opportunity to yell out and challenge’ the representative. ‘The goal is to rattle him.’
  • The Patriots, except for Kremer, declined to participate in the Express’  first bus tour, since the groups had different philosophies.
  • Taking part in the D.C. rally organized by Beck’s “9 1/2 Project,” which drew 75,000, Kremer returned home ” ‘a changed person…I didn’t need to stand in the shadows of Jenny Beth Martin and Mark Meckler (activist and Grass Valley, California Internet marketer and attorney)…I felt good about myself.’ “
  • Prominent Florida physician and tea-party activist David McKalip whipped up a storm when he Googled “a doctored image of Mr. Obama as a a tribal witch doctor with a bone through his nose…” In an email to the Wall Street Journal, he publicly apologized. Kremer defended him, to the dismay of other Patriots. ” ‘David, we all support you fully and are here for you…I can assure you of one thing and that is we will protect our own. We all have your back, my friend.’ “
  • In August 2009, the Tea Party incorporated with a 4 person board, Ms. Martin, Ms. Kremer, Mr. Meckler and Rob Neppell, a conservative blogger. “But relations quickly deteriorated…Ms. Kremer indicated she had hired her own lawyers and might try to claim ownership of the group’s intellectual property, according to an affidavit from Ms. Martin. A few weeks later, she was voted off the board.”
  • Kremer shifted to the Tea Party Express, urging it to back Scott Brown, for the Senate seat vacated by Edward Kennedy.
and as they say…”the rest is history”…hugmamma.