Commentary Magazine


‘Wanting to Bomb the Hell Out of Someone’

Newsweek is dribbling out its quadrennial, always-riveting (no irony here) behind-the-scenes look at the 2008 campaign. In the first installment today, we watch Barack Obama as he slowly commits himself psychologically to the race throughout the year 2007. As he unsteadily begins the endless series of debates that consumed the year, he finds himself angered and discomfited by the format. That’s as it should be for any rational person. But look what made him especially uncomfortable:

Obama bridled at the sometimes mindless rituals and one-upmanship of a national political campaign in the age of cable news. He resented the pressure he felt to declare, as he put it to NEWSWEEK, that you “want to bomb the hell out of someone” to show toughness on terrorism.

I pray this sentence is a misrepresentation of what Obama meant, because if it is accurate, we have just elected a president who resents and resists the idea that a terrorist attack on the United States or its interests in the wake of 9/11 requires a military response if one is possible.

Of course, this was not a considered remark, not policy. But it may be an extraordinarily revealing glimpse into Obama’s gut feelings about these matters — that justifiable retaliation is nothing more than a psychologically satisfying act, a fulfillment of a primal revenge hunger, “wanting to bomb the hell out of someone.”

It is suggestive, as well, of the attitude he might bring to bear on questions about Israel’s response to terrorist acts.

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