Can We Stop Questioning Obama’s Legitimacy Now?

May 2nd, 2011 at 12:07 pm David Frum | 124 Comments |

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So much to say about the long-awaited visiting of justice upon Osama bin Laden.

But there’s one effect on US domestic politics that deserves a thought:

Here’s hoping that we have at last seen the end of this ugly insinuation that there is something less than fully American about the black president with the exotic name.

On Friday came the release of the long-form birth certificate that provided the final decisive refutation of the birther lie that President Obama was born elsewhere than the United States.

On Saturday at the White House Correspondents dinner, pills the most visible proponent of that lie, the blowhard TV tycoon Donald Trump, was publicly ridiculed in front of an audience of 3,000 people – without a voice to excuse or defend him.

And then late Sunday, the president told the nation of the successful execution of his order to shoot and kill Osama bin Laden.

The success of the bin Laden operation is a great moment for the United States – and not only for the United States.

But it is also a deservedly bad moment for some of the destructive forces in American public life: for those who have substituted for ordinary politics a sustained campaign to brand President Obama as an outsider, as un-American, as non-American.

Those of us who oppose this administration’s economic and foreign policies have had so many valid points to make.

Yet some have insisted on traveling beyond those valid points. They have called the president “post American.” A “Third world dictator.” An individual whose behavior could only be interpreted as “Kenyan post-colonial.”  A “thug in chief.” They have tried to present US politics not as a choice between liberal and conservative, but as a choice between American and non-American, between real Americans and between a dangerous dark-skinned intruder. They have sought to portray the President as a man who could not be trusted to lead the country because he owed no loyalty to the country – because he did not belong in the country.

After the events of the past 72 hours, those kinds of attacks should be finished now. It’s a cleaner world without bin Laden soiling it. And American politics will be cleaner for the expunging of the malicious fantasy of the president’s non-Americanness.

President Obama has performed the first job of an American president: he has used the power of the nation well to defeat the nation’s enemies and defend the nation’s people. After an interval for celebration of yesterday’s accomplishment, it will be back to politics as usual. But let’s hope that this time, the usual will have this difference: that the administration can be criticized as “liberal” without being libeled as “alien.”

Originally published at

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124 Comments so far ↓

  • Hauka

    Dear David: I am continually heartened by your editorials and comments – and especially today. By taking the opportunity to call out those who perpetuate ignorance and stoke the flames of racial hatred, you do the United States a deep and critical service. Obama is the President, not a conspiracist fantasy. The elimination of bin-Laden was a mission accomplished through focused effort and cool logic. Now let’s get on with a real critique of his policies that is constructive and respectful rather than the idiot circus that has been created by those who want the United States to be ruled by fear and ignorance.

    • Bunker555

      Well stated.

      • Hauka

        Thanks – hope springs eternal – sometimes. Intelligence must rule the day, not willful ignorance (and there’s plenty of that in all hues of the political spectrum).

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  • John Q

    Kudos to Obama for following the policy of Clinton/Gore.

    After the Cole attack of 2000, Clinton/Gore were preparing to go after bin Laden, but the election intervened, and Bush decided he wasn’t that interested.

    After 9/11, when special forces were belatedly sent to Afghanistan, they were close to capturing bin Laden when they were called back to pursue Bush’s priority: Iraq.

    And we all remember Bush later saying he wasn’t that much concerned about bin Laden.

    So it took Obama coming into office to revive the Clinton/Gore determination to get bin Laden, making it the CIA’s top priority.

    And it has finally paid off.

  • So Does This Mean An End To Obama Derangement Syndrome? | Celebs, News and Gossips

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  • jamielove

    Yes. Focusing on legitimate rather than bogus criticisms of the Obama administration is a good thing for all concerned.

  • Primrose


    The appropriate time to ask that question was during the election and of both he and McCain who actually was born outside US soil. Indeed, Hillary Clinton’s supporters did look into it and found it a no go. Additionally, Obama did release his birth certificate. Then there is common sense which suggests that it would have been very difficult for a pregnant Ann Dunham Obama to get to Kenya and back easily (let alone cheaply) Now, after the election, after both proof and logic deny the claim, it ceases to be a legitimate question.

    Listen to Mr. Frum and drop it. Mr. Obama is president. If you don’t like it work very hard to get him unelected, but stay within the truth and civil ,civic minded behavior please.

    • balconesfault

      Indeed, Hillary Clinton’s supporters did look into it and found it a no go.

      Frankly, this is what convinced me beyond a shadow of a doubt that there was nothing there.

      Hillary was spending money like a drunken sailor, and she was ready to kneecap Obama in any way she could (remember the Rev. Wright issue was raised by Hillary’s surrogates during the primaries … which ironically had the effect of making it “old news” by the time Palin tried to resurface it during general election).

      In other words, if there was something there, Hillary would have been releasing it. I have no doubt she had people working overtime right up to the Convention to dig up something on Obama that could disqualify him from the Presidency. That anyone else spent time/money on the birther cause subsequent to that just shows they’re either too stupid to be President, or they were more interested in knowingly promoting a fairly reprehensible charge than in really finding out any truths.

  • stuartamills

    David, could you address whether torture was justified or not? It appears that conservatives believe that Bush’s policies resulted in the capture, while the facts do not support that case.



    “David, could you address whether torture was justified or not?”

    It wasn’t, whether or not it led to getting bin laden.

  • PatrickQuint

    stuartamills: “It appears that conservatives believe that Bush’s policies resulted in the capture, while the facts do not support that case.”

    There are a number of stories suggesting that critical information was discovered at Guantanamo Bay through the interrogation of prisoners. Here’s one.

    I still see no excuse for torture.

    • medinnus

      Donald Rumsfeld calls bullshit on the myth that anything but the normal interrogation techniques obtained the relevant information:

      NYT calls bullshit as well:

      Those who authorized war-crime torture are cowards, and those who support them are incredibly dumb-fuck stupid besides being un-American traitors who, in torturing and thereby aiding terrorist fundraising and recruiting, provided aid and comfort to the enemy.

      • medinnus

        Those two articles were sourced from an Andrew Sullivan article, here:

        For those who care about the truth, there’s more.

      • sdspringy

        The US just capped off two rounds into Osama’s head, photos soon. Wanna bet that this event won’t be used for recruiting?

        • anniemargret

          I heard it reported that it was one bullet in the chest, and then another in the head.

          Of course they will ‘use’ it, Springy.

          Is it better if he remained alive, the ‘capo-di-capo’ of al Quaeda and leader of the biggest mass murder on American soil? I think not. And I think it was a bold move by Obama, very risky. May God have mercy on bin Laden’s soul, but it was far, far better that he was killed than the US and the world continuing to have him on the lam, with myriad suspicions and conspiracy theories floating about.

          Terrorism experts are now stating that this event will likely hurt terrorists more than if he been kept alive, which is what Bush was preferring, saying it wasn’t that important that he was killed.

          I think the majority believe it was good that he was killed and that terrorism got a boot in the face. But no one is going to be naive enough to think it spells the end of terrorism. It will never end. Like a cancer it will have to be rooted out, step by step.

    • LFC

      Patrick, I posted this elsewhere. It appears that the info DID come from interrogation, but very much did NOT come from torture. In fact, the early dependence upon torture may have delayed us getting the piece of evidence that started the whole ball rolling. Yet another example of a classic Bush/Cheney screw-up.

      • anniemargret

        Or as Jesse Ventura once said, ‘It is no good, because you — I’ll put it to you this way, you give me a water board, Dick Cheney and one hour, and I’ll have him confess to the Sharon Tate murders.”

        Aptly put, Jesse.

  • think4yourself

    In spite of what my Tea Party friends say, this was a gutsy decision by the President. He could have ordered a Predator drone strike, but there would probably have been civilian casualties, it was in a metropolitan area, and no way to prove if Bin Laden was actually killed. He could have sent troops in but might have missed Bin Laden, he could have engaged the Pakastani military (but BL would have been tipped off). Instead he sent a strike team.

    Think about it. Clinton’s experience with a small force in Somalia went badly. Even more to the point, Jimmy Carter’s attempted hostage rescue that failed was certainly one of the factors in his loss to Ronald Reagan. The Clinton and Carter experiences are part of the reasons that we have pursued miltary policies based on overwhelming force. President Obama’s sending of a strike team certainly could have ended badly and could have (would have?) resulted in the loss of his 2nd term. If the mission failed, had there been US casualties or massive civilian casualties, the GOP would have had a field day, the liberals would have abandoned him entirely and it would have cost American prestige around the world.

  • Lonewolf

    Tomorrow, the birthers will start clamouring to see a notarized copy of bin Laden’s long form death certificate.

  • dafyd

    Mr. Frum,
    I’m curious, did you ask your friend Laura Ingraham this question? If so, how did she respond? If you did not, why? All morning she has been tweeting her “Fellow conservtives” not to be fooled by Obama’s call for unity along other stupid tweets.
    I am not expecting nor do I want people to fall all over the president now. I want him to be challenged, but honesty. She is a disgraceful, liar. She has never admitted she had a hand in lying about death panels. Infact she claimed she was “joking” in an interview with you.
    My question for you David, who was this article meant for? Regular Americans, or your friends like Ingraham?

  • maxfieldj

    Mr. Frum you continue to rise in my respect for you.

  • zachsteph

    Thank you David…now let’ s move on….

  • sdspringy

    Obama continues the Clinton/Gore policy concerning Osama. Really. BinLaden was actually in custody, in jail, and offered to Clinton free of charge. Remember.

    What did Clinton do, nothing. Is that the comparison the Lefties want to make?

    And though I am as happy as anyone that Bin Laden is dead but let’s understand the facts. Obama had 16 hours to make the decision. Obama actually had to be pulled off the golf course, and forced via the possible political fallout, to give the order to proceed.

    I am glad Obama did that, I am continually unimpressed with his ability to make decisions.

    • anniemargret

      Too bad springy. It is very impressive.

      • ottovbvs

        Springy is just upset that the guy in the GI Joe outfit couldn’t get Bin Laden in seven years and the “Prof” got him in two. Apparently the “Prof’s” major failure was he took 16 hours to weigh up all the issues in what was a very complicated operation in the sovereign territory of another country. Springy of course prefers hip shooting incompetence by men in theatrical costume.

    • Bagok

      Yes springy, our president can walk and chew gum at the same time. btw, all I could find was one latimes blog mentioning he played golf on Saturday, and that was unsourced. Where did you get all the embellishment you added?

  • PatrickQuint

    LFC: “Patrick, I posted this elsewhere. It appears that the info DID come from interrogation, but very much did NOT come from torture.”

    Thanks, that’s good to know. According to the articles, Donald Rumsfeld is saying that Guantanamo Bay detainees were never waterboarded, which presumably includes Khalid Sheik Mohammed and the other prisoners involved in the intelligence surrounding this event.

    I suspect Rumsfeld maintains that the practice has led to useful information. For all we know, it may have. Like white phosphorous, flamethrowers, land mines, sawed-off shotguns, and napalm, torture can sometimes be effective. That’s no excuse.

  • Primrose

    The other important thing to remember about our “torture” program is that it isn’t actually based on useful techniques vis a vis torture. We based it on our anti-torture program which was based torture programs of China (essentially doing what we usually prepare against) whose intent was to produce false confessions. So even if torture works, the torture we do, doesn’t.

    But overall, the false friend and prisoner’s dilemma type interrogation are much more effective in getting actual information.

    Personally, I think that torture is wrong most of the time. In those cases, the ticking time bomb of Israeli courts and Hollywood movies, then those doing the torturing should be held accountable and brought to trial to defend their actions, because if the issue isn’t important enough that you would risk going to jail for it, it isn’t important enough to torture for.

    The other problem with torture is that it can be an addictive solution. Maybe the first time they did it, it was important. But then the next is less important because they are impatient and just want info and then the next really only impatience and the guy pisses them off and on and on. Then we are torturing people we only suspect.

  • Nanotek

    ottovbvs: “Springy is just upset that the guy in the GI Joe outfit couldn’t get Bin Laden in seven years and the ‘Prof’ got him in two.”

    Ha. I can imagine just how wild-eyed and frothing the Fox hard-right crowd would be had Obama strode across a US aircraft carrier, sporting a Bush-like codpiece.

  • shediac

    Obviously most folks on this blog spend very little time on the net. Reagan got bin Laden! Did Reagan not invent bullets, guns, helicopters? Just ask Newt.

  • SqueekyFromm

    As far as I am concerned, the release of the long form made Obama a LESS LEGITIMATE president. Because, if Obama was born in Kenya, he couldn’t help that. BUT, if he tried use the Birther controversy as a Intentionally Divisive political issue, then Obama could help that.

    Obama chose to keep this silly issue going on for three years because he thought it would get him some votes. Sorry, but that is no different than what the race-baiters did in the olden days.

    Squeeky Fromm
    Girl Reporter

  • Harmony.The.Critic

    Yes. Those who keep things non-personal should and palpably will stop questioning it.
    The sore losers, mainly the republican party, will never stop assessing Obama.
    That’s perfectly fine seeing as how he is composed and hardly away of critics.