But he blew it in his latest column in the New York Times. Sure, he starts off great...talking about how Republican bullies have changed their tune from calling President Obama weak in 2008 to casting him as the big divisive meanie this time around.
Among the ranks of bullies, the only fair fight is the one that ends with them laughing and kicking sand. And so, no longer able to portray Obama as weak, the authors of Willie Horton, swift-boating and modern day poll-taxing have been reduced to other tactics — among them wildly yelping, “Please, Mr. President, nothing to the face.”But then he totally blows it by doing something that drives this woman crazy...he equates violence with strength and Obama to Cheney in that department.
Obama’s tough guy bona fides were largely built on the expansive bombing campaign he launched against Al Qaeda, a campaign that regards due process and the avoidance of civilian casualties as indulgences...First of all, I'd suggest that perhaps Coates has spent too much time reading the rantings of his fellow Atlantic contributor Conor Friedersdorf - who takes every opportunity available to cast President Obama as the heartless killer of innocents - and not enough time balancing that with someone like Daniel Klaidman - who literally wrote the book on the drone war.
During the 2008 campaign, Barack Obama earned the G.O.P.’s mockery. Now he has earned their fear. It is an ambiguous feat, accomplished by going to the dark side, by walking the G.O.P.’s talk, by becoming the man Dick Cheney fashioned himself to be.
In this overheated election season, Obama’s campaign is painting a portrait of a steely commander who pursues the enemy without flinching. But the truth is more complex, and in many ways, more reassuring. The president is not a robotic killing machine. The choices he faces are brutally difficult, and he has struggled with them—sometimes turning them over in his mind again and again.But to compare President Obama to Dick Cheney...really?!!! The man who is probably MOST responsible for lying the country into invading Iraq and the killing of over 100,000 civilians, not to mention his reveling in the idea of the use of torture as an intelligence tool? That is simply unconscionable.
However, my biggest beef with Coates transcends all that. Even if you want to critique President Obama for his use of drone strikes against al Qaeda, I would dispute that as any kind of clear definition of "tough guy bona fides."
Dick Cheney was one of the world's best examples of a coward - someone who refused to fight himself - but was willing to risk the lives of others in a needless war.
And so I find the equation of this kind of violence with strength to be anathema. It is as if we equated a wife-beater with strength because he picked on someone half his size.
As we see from Klaidman's writing, the drone war is clearly a moral dilemma with which President Obama has struggled. It is in that very struggle that we might find an example of strength.
But President Obama demonstrated his strength to me a long time ago. He did that back in January 2010 when he took on the entire Republican congressional caucus at their Baltimore retreat. Or when he invited Paul Ryan to his speech on deficit reduction in April 2011 and then proceeded to tear Ryan's budget apart - while he looked him square in the eye.
Women have been working for a long time on re-defining what it means to be "feminine." But I'd suggest to Coates that men like him need to start working on what it means to be "masculine," especially in regards to "tough guy bona fides."