Death pics, “Deathers,” and an October Surprise?
I have become completely obsessed with this so-called “deather” phenomenon, the topic du jour that the media wants to shove down our throats at the moment. I should warn you straight away, that I am a raging news junkie. There are far too many moments of my life spent sitting on the couch watching a news channel on television, while reading the news on my iPad, and checking Twitter with my Blackberry. In fact, I have pretty much been in that position since Sunday night. So, as soon as I heard the news that we had finally tracked down and eliminated the most infamous terrorist of any of our lifetimes, I did kind of wonder if we would see a death photo of Osama bin Laden.
I’m not really someone who seeks out shocking or gruesome images or videos, only because I don’t want to live with something that disturbing in my mind if I can avoid it. In fact, I have never watched any of the videos of Americans being beheaded at the hands of animals in the Middle East, I didn’t watch Saddam Hussien’s execution, I’m frankly just not curious about these things. However, on Monday morning, when I listened to Hoda and Kathie Lee breezily chatting about a death photo on the Today show, I figured there was no way in hell those photos weren’t going to be released. Well, obviously I was wrong. Of course, no politician would ever let an opportunity like this pass without milking it for all the political capital it is worth, so a delay and drawn out public debate didn’t surprise me.
Having been immersed in the news coverage in the days following OBL’s death, there are a few observations I feel compelled to share. First and foremost, regardless of what the liberal pundits and reporters are trying to convince us of, I have not heard a single conservative exhibit even a hint of disbelief about whether OBL is, in fact, dead. Do they want to see the death pictures? Absolutely they do, but never seemingly for confirmation of his actual death. Second, because the “birther” controversy essentially died last week with the issuance of the President’s actual birth certificate, the left is scrambling for a new issue to control the political dialogue and to continue to distract Americans from the very serious issues currently facing our nation.
To my first point, I can say confidently that there is no “deather” issue originating in or advocated by any credible conservative that I have seen. Is there skepticism out there regarding the demise of OBL? You bet! I have read and heard a number of people claim that either Bin Laden is still alive and well or deceased but from ailments that killed him years before. Every single source of this conspiracy theory fodder has come from Pakistanis who find it impossible to believe that OBL was their neighbor, or supporters of him, but never once a mainstream conservative. However, in interviews on the news, when a conservative indicates they would like to see the OBL death photo, the interviewer immediately pounces and asks, “So will you not believe he is actually dead unless you see proof?” I literally watched one bewildered Republican Congressman asked that exact question on Fox News Monday afternoon. He was so taken aback by the question; it was obvious he didn’t get the memo that there was a new rightwing conspiracy movement afoot.
So, where did this whole “deather” nonsense originate, and why is it being incorrectly attributed to conservatives? Admittedly, this is where I start sounding like a conspiracy theory lunatic myself, I accept it and embrace it, but just stick with me for a moment and hear me out. This whole idea came to me as I was pondering all of the “-er” people and movements out there: “truthers,” “birthers,” “deathers.” I think most of us can agree that the “birther” movement was more beneficial to the President than harmful to him. For a number of reasons, I didn’t devote any significant time to following the “birther” movement. Most importantly however, as an attorney and simply a student of the Constitution, it is a fact that there are a number of clauses which can be interpreted in many ways and “birthers” rely on only one interpretation of what a “natural born citizen” is. The President’s mother was a United States citizen; therefore, whether PresBO was born in the United States or in Kenya, he is in my opinion, a “natural born citizen” and satisfies that eligibility requirement in the Constitution. I have to say though, that his defiance in producing a copy of his birth certificate was perplexing to me. I mean, if nothing else, it would shut these people up. But then it dawned on me, this was a silly distraction that really dominated a lot of the political dialogue in this country. If Sean Hannity is talking about the President’s citizenship and birth certificate, he isn’t discussing the real issues that will determine whether or not PresBO gets a second term in office, like the debt ceiling or the out of control spending that is going to bankrupt our country. Additionally, I’m as guilty as anyone of having a negative perception of people in the “birther” movement. I see them as misguided zealots, but I know a number of people believe they are raging bigots. And I have to wonder, did I fall prey to the suggestive efforts of the mainstream media that I believe I am immune to? Regardless of their motives, it is safe to say this issue was finally put to rest last week with the release of the President’s birth certificate. And with the disclosure of his birth certificate, goes away an adversary that allowed his supporters to rally around him in support against a common enemy, despite his very real shortcomings and failures in office.
So with the “birther” issue finally put to bed, a new distraction and a new opponent must be found or created. Enter liberal pundit created and media perpetuated “deather” movement. As a part-time political consultant, I have to admire this strategy. The reality is there are some serious legal and ethical issues surrounding the mission to assassinate Osama bin Laden. But if the media is dwelling on a big, bad pack of idiots who refuse to believe that OBL is dead without proof in the form of a death picture, then they aren’t discussing the real substance of this story.
Further, everyone anticipated a bump in the polls for the President, whose approval ratings have been pretty dismal of late, and regardless of which poll you trust PresBO’s increase following the assassination of OBL has been pretty anemic. But historically the good will and support following a major success for any President is fleeting, and will be ancient history by November 2012, when it really counts for PresBO. It occurs to me that by holding back those photos, the President has a very powerful tool in his re-election tool kit. In every election, there is always talk of an “October surprise” that never really comes to fruition, but it certainly wouldn’t surprise me if an OBL death picture is strategically “leaked” just in time for the presidential election, particularly if it’s a tight race, inflammation of the enemy be damned!
Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t also address the peculiar handling of this whole story by the President and his staff. In the wee hours of this breaking news story, it sounded like something conceived in the mind of a Hollywood, action movie, script writer. OBL was living in a million dollar mansion in an affluent suburb of the Pakistan capital. And when the Navy Seals penetrated his compound OBL used a woman as a human shield and fought to the death with an automatic weapon… and then the real story began to trickle out. In fact, while certainly nicer than a cave in the mountains, OBL was living in a large but fairly modest house in a rather ordinary neighborhood. And in fact the female casualty was not used as a human shield, but rather injected herself into the confrontation or attempted to shield OBL from the soldiers storming the house. Who knows? And while our troops were supposedly given the order to take OBL into custody if possible, he was not armed but resisted in such a way that it required his execution? So on Monday when it was a fantastical story with an evil, horrible man being horrible and evil right up until his last moments on Earth the people in the know gave an unprecedented amount of information about the mission to the public. But now as we learn more, and it isn’t looking so good for the President, they have decided now it’s time to clam up and refuse to release any additional details? I realize that practically it would have been near impossible for the United States to take OBL into custody and hold him. The logistical nightmare alone would have been difficult to overcome, and no one can imagine the response from his supporters as they tried to find or free him. But this misinformation/ revised information campaign from the President’s office, just gives skeptics more reasons to doubt the official story on the events of May 1st. Is it me, or was the briefing to the public so intentionally sloppy that it seems almost as if the President does want to spawn a “deather” conspiracy movement?
In summary, I can’t help but believe this whole “deather” nonsense is a bit like that scene at the end of the Wizard of Oz… the smoke and theatrics are meant to distract us from the man behind the curtain, or in this case the fact that our President believes that he can use the U.S. military as his own personal assassination squad, we are staring down the barrel of $5 per gallon gas with no relief or plan for relief in sight, and our country’s economy is in trouble and likely only going to get worse. Does the President need to release a death photo of OBL to quash this supposed “deather” movement? Not for anyone in the United States, but the myth and legend of OBL will continue to be a powerful force in the Middle East unless we put it to rest once and for all. And let’s be frank the horrific and gruesome aspects of these photos could be censored so that while the curious or disbelievers can be satisfied, the delicate sensibilities of someone like me will not be offended. So don’t be fooled by the reasons given for not releasing the photos yet, and check back with me next October to see if my “October surprise” prediction comes to bear.