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December 2nd, 2009 3:10 am
An Irreconcilable Base … on the Right
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Ever since Republicans lost hold of every major organ of the federal government, the MSM has been pushing a meme about how the right-wing wackos on talk radio represent a radical, uncompromising view of the world that will assure permanent minority status for the GOP. In virtually every instance, I’ve thought this analysis almost comically wrong. Until today.

The reality is that — whatever their intellectual shortcomings — the conservative talking heads usually do a pretty good job of keeping the GOP honest. Unfortunately, some of them seem to be totally abandoning that charge when it comes to President Obama’s troop surge in Afghanistan.

Rush Limbaugh had some relatively muted criticisms for Obama’s plan on his radio show this morning, but Sean Hannity was positively apoplectic on Fox tonight in the aftermath of the President’s speech at West Point.  Hannity hit Obama hard for “dithering” on the decision making process, shorting General McChrystal’s troop request, and not being “passionate” enough. His reaction was churlish and desperate.

The reality is that Obama (of whom I have little positive to say on virtually any other issue) is boldly choosing to alienate his own political base by embracing the kind of strategy that we know can work based on the Bush experience in Iraq.

Criticisms over the amount of troops are misguided. Obama already ordered a mini-surge earlier in the Spring; he seems to be making a serious effort to get NATO to supply the forces to make up the difference between new American deployments and Gen. McChrystal’s request; and, if the Bush experience is any indicator, the final number of new troops deployed will likely be higher than Obama’s initial estimate.  On top of all this, there’s a bizarre line of criticism that it was somehow inappropriate for Obama not to take McChrystal’s recommendation without a single alteration.  As Commanders-in-Chief, Presidents are not supposed to be  passive receptacles of their military advisors’ recommendations.  Effective wartime leaders push back and push back hard. That doesn’t necessarily mean that Obama got the decision right, but he certainly has the methodology down.

There are plenty of legitimate points of criticism. While Obama was right to enter into a serious deliberative process, the “dithering” claim has some merit — a quarter of a year is too long to leave the theater adrift. The focus on timetables for withdrawal is also a mistake and one that’s liable to get the President into hot water come 2012. His caveat about “conditons on the ground,” while welcome as a matter of strategic principle, only muddies the rhetorical waters further.

All that being said, Obama has made a courageous decision that will shape the rest of his presidency. It’s the right call for the nation. Pundits on the right should keep their powder dry.

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