What Obama Does Best: Taunt Republicans


President Barack Obama is not committed to fixing Washington’s chronic budget woes or jump-starting an ailing an economy, but that doesn’t mean this administration lacks focus. If there is one area in which this administration delivers, it is taunting Republicans.

Think Lucy teasing Charlie Brown with the football — except in this case, Lucy is a twice-elected president who ought to have better things to do, such as getting Washington to work.

Three recent examples:

The White House released a photo of the president skeet shooting, in reaction to the press corps’ skepticism of a recent Obama statement made during an interview with The New Republic. Obama said, “At Camp David, we do skeet shooting all the time.”

It’s a silly story. The White House press doesn’t know exactly what the president did when he learned that four Americans were killed at the Benghazi, Libya, mission, but reporters had been demanding ocular proof that the president shot clay pigeons.

The photo came out Saturday, and Obama looked as contrived with a shotgun as former Democratic White House hopeful Michael Dukakis looked in a tank. Skeptics of various ideological stripes questioned the photo’s authenticity. Conservatives got the blame.

This was exactly the reaction Obamaland had expected. In releasing the photo, Obama political guru David Plouffe tweeted, “Attn skeet birthers. Make our day — let the photoshop conspiracies begin!”

Last week, the administration announced a reputed compromise on its rule that church-based institutions provide birth control benefits in violation of a religion’s deeply held beliefs. The new rules make insurers provide and pay for contraception coverage.

To the extent that church fathers object, they remind young voters that they oppose contraception. The administration scores bonus points when a Republican anywhere in the world says something really stupid about rape or conception.

Given former GOP Sen. Chuck Hagel’s near endorsement of Obama in 2008 and his opposition to the Bush surge in Iraq, the president had to know that his decision to nominate Hagel to serve as his defense secretary would enrage the right. Clearly, the specter of Republicans bristling at the nomination of a highly decorated Vietnam veteran was the impetus behind the Hagel pick.

Still, the administration could not have suspected how muddled Hagel would appear before the Senate Armed Services Committee last week. Hagel flubbed the administration’s position on Iran — twice. He had to distance himself from old comments he had made about Israel and Iran. Hagel was so mediocre that former Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs conceded on Sunday’s “Meet the Press” that Hagel seemed “unimpressive and unprepared.” Sometimes the football fumbles by itself.

Last week, White House press secretary Jay Carney said he “would be stunned if, in the end, Republican senators chose to try to block the nomination of a decorated war veteran who was once among their colleagues in the Senate as a Republican.” This administration never passes up a chance to blame the Republicans.

Email Debra J. Saunders at: dsaunders@sfchronicle.com.

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