For some conservatives, the photo controversy has been one of a handful of very slender reeds to grasp onto in this time of outsize Obaman attainment. (He cares more about Muslim anger than American exultation.) Another is the battle over credit: that Bush deserves as much as or more than Obama. And still another is Panetta’s acknowledgment that some of the intelligence used to track bin Laden came from detainees subject to enhanced interrogation. (RedState Morning Briefing headline: “Waterboarding Worked.”) Put aside the merits of the arguments here, which could fill an entire column. Instead simply note the sheer desperation that is fueling them, the frantic efforts on the right to re-spin a situation that is, for the moment, already fully spun—in a direction that scares the GOP fairly senseless.
And with good reason. Before deep-sixing bin Laden, Obama was looking increasingly shaky politically, his approval ratings sliding, the percentage of voters saying the nation is on the wrong track hovering close to 70. He looks a lot more solid now. Barring a terrorist event on domestic soil for which he is blamed, his national-security credentials will be difficult to challenge. The perception of him as a strong and competent leader is bound to soar. In one fell swoop, he has consigned to the dustbin the Republican caricature of him as a feckless, dithering, weak-kneed law professor. The meme of Obama as Jimmy Carter redux is no more.
But now Obama must confront (and avoid) the possibility of a new meme: being cast as George Herbert Walker Bush, the sequel.