With enemies like these. . .

Thanks to an oddball assortment of detractors, President Obama may be a shoo-in for reelection

By Alex Beam
Globe Columnist / May 27, 2011

E-mail this article

Invalid E-mail address
Invalid E-mail address

Sending your article

Your article has been sent.

Text size +

It was Oscar Wilde who observed that a man cannot be too careful in the choice of his enemies. In this, Barack Obama has succeeded mightily. With enemies like his, he’ll hardly need his friends to cruise to reelection next year.

Orchestrating the assassination of Osama bin Laden was an undeniable triumph, although not everyone saw it that way. Famed Latin American newspaper columnist Fidel Castro said the United States had committed “an abhorrent deed’’ when they decided to pursue “the killing of a human being disarmed and surrounded by his family.’’ Western Europeans predictably condemned the Abbottabad operation. Various parliamentarians kvetched about America’s appeal to frontier justice. Siegfried Kauder, a German pol, complained that “a random killing is not permitted according to international agreements,’’ calling the OBL mission “medieval’’ and “vengeful.’’

How fortunate that Barack Obama is running for reelection in bloody-minded America, not in the white-glove corridors of Europe and Latin America.

Not that Obama doesn’t have plenty of useful enemies right here in the United States. When the president negotiated the budget compromise that preserved most of the George W. Bush tax cuts, tax fiddler extraordinaire Representative Charles Rangel (D-Doghouse) said, “What [Obama has] done politically does not fit what I think should be done morally.’’ When famed rap-a-demic Cornel West called Obama “a black mascot of Wall Street oligarchs and a black puppet of corporate plutocrats’’ the president hit the jackpot in the enemies-doing-your-work-for-you sweepstakes. West added for good measure that Obama “has become head of the American killing machine and is proud of it.’’

Apparently Professor West’s nose was out of joint because the president hadn’t been returning his phone calls. I don’t think he will have to worry about that anymore.

No less a cultural icon than Captain America — Peter Fonda’s famous role in the 1969 movie “Easy Rider’’ — recently called Obama a “traitor’’ because of the president’s dilatory response to last year’s BP oil spill. “You allowed foreign boots on our soil telling our military — in this case the coastguard [sic] — what they can and could not do, and telling us, the citizens of the United States, what we could or could not do,’’ Fonda wrote the president in an e-mail.

If only Peter can get his loopy sister Jane to trash Obama for some imagined trespass, heck, the Democrats won’t even have to mount a campaign!

Losing Donald Trump as a presidential candidate was bad luck. Could anyone wish for a more inept detractor? Are Trump’s shadowy operatives still scouring Hawaiian newspaper archives for evidence that Obama was born in, I don’t know, Kathmandu? This month sadly witnessed the fizzling out of both Trump and the rapture, two subjects about which one simply could not read enough. I was so looking forward to Trump wandering around New Hampshire, demanding that the Department of Justice subpoena President Obama’s Occidental College transcripts.

Did young Barry pull a C-plus in Western Civ? The world wants to know.

Happily, there are plenty of loons left in the lake that Trump flew in from. Representative Michele Bachmann (R-Screwloose) — the distinguished legislator who thinks the American Revolution began somewhere near Nashua — is worrying out loud that America will be biblically “cursed’’ if Obama “rejects’’ Israel, whatever that means. Fellow policy wonk Sarah Palin likewise dumped on Obama’s Israel policy in an op-ed column graciously accepted for publication by her Facebook page.

If you’re Obama, Israel isn’t such a bad enemy to have right now, as it’s really just a pretend enemy. Obama can win a few pundit points for “standing up to Israel,’’ although in the end he won’t.

Obama’s predecessor won a second term, and he, too, was blessed with useful enemies. The tut-tutters of The New York Times editorial board and the worldly New Yorker essayists couldn’t abide George W. Bush. His critics were always right — they told each other so — and completely tone-deaf to off-island politics, meaning the politics of anywhere that wasn’t Manhattan or Martha’s Vineyard.

Hollywood eminentoes hated Bush, of course, and occasionally blustered about moving to Canada, were he reelected. That idea foundered once the beautiful people examined the Canadian temperature readouts, and the tax tables.

It was Winston Churchill who said, “You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.’’ Sometimes your enemies can be more useful than your friends.

Alex Beam is a Globe columnist. His e-dress is