The news out of the Perpetual War on Terror is pretty grim these days. The US military knowingly but “accidentally” bombed a hospital in Afghanistan, killing 22 doctors and patients. Just days later, the president decided not to draw down troops in the country as previously planned, but will instead keep nearly 6,000 of our sons and daughters in the country until at least 2017 when his term ends. At the same time, the inner workings of the president’s drone war, including questionable intel, lax target timeframes, and horrifying collateral damage ratios, have been brought to light by a whistleblower.
But you’d be forgiven for not noticing any of this. While it has been reported in the news media, there has been almost no secondary public reaction. I think that’s entirely because of one factor: Barack Obama won the last election, not Mitt Romney. If Romney had been elected in 2012 and in the year before his reelection campaign had bombed a hospital, decided to keep troops in Afghanistan, and had details of his robot assassin program leaked, things would probably look a little different today.
If Romney were president right now, the White House would be surrounded by protesters and candlelight peace vigils night and day. Some would wave American flags, some would wave signs calling for impeachment, some would have pictures caricaturing the president as Hitler or an animal. They would chant “Not in our name!”, or “Bring them home!”, or “Hey ho, hey ho, Romney has got to go!”
If Romney were president, nightly news reports on CBS, NBC, and ABC would have regular features on war crimes, quagmires, and collateral damage. CNN would be wall-to-wall with team coverage of protests, interviews of bombing witnesses, and Anderson Cooper walking through rubble in full body armor.
If Romney were president, every political analyst left of Judge Napolitano would be fretting over the war-weary public turning the upcoming election into a referendum against the president and his party. Vox and FiveThirtyEight would have maps showing how many Senate seats Republicans would lose because of the president’s sure-to-plummet approval rating. And then there’s MSNBC.
If Romney were president, MSNBC would be holding mock war crimes tribunals on Chris Hayes, explaining the ins and outs of the process with expert guests. Lena Dunham would be on Maddow every night aghast (but still giggling!) at this warmonger-in-chief. Chris Matthews would be yelling at Michael Moore, trying to find out when charges would be filed at the Hague.
If Romney were president, Democrats in Congress would be calling for hearings and investigations for each transgression: the bombing, troop levels, and drone policy. Chuck Schumer would hold daily press briefings scolding the wreckless president from behind the glasses perched precariously down his nose. Someone would accurately quote Sheila Jackson-Lee condeming the terrible bombing of the “orphanage in Pakistan”.
But Mitt Romney isn’t president, Barack Obama is, so no one cares. When the One, the Nobel Peace Prize Winner, the Lightbringer, the Calmer of Seas, the History-maker, the Healer of Wounds, He Who Will Make Us Respected Again bombs a hospital, extends a war he said he already ended (Promise Fulfilled!™), and uses flying death robots to kill [REDACTED]s of bystanders and labels them “enemies” anyway, we assume it’s a bug, not a feature, and we excuse it. Shame on us.