Defending Obama from comparisons to President Jimmy Carter, New York Times intelligence reporter Scott Shane questionably claimed that "the deaths of American diplomats in Libya are not a continuing crisis" in Saturday's "Romney Team Tries Hanging a Jimmy Carter Label on Obama." Certainly not if the major media have a say in suppressing the controversy over how the Obama administration's claims about the attacks differ from the facts.
A president struggling simultaneously to cope with anti-American tumult in the Middle East and fix stubborn economic trouble at home: Is President Obama replaying the one-term presidency of Jimmy Carter?
So Mitt Romney and Paul D. Ryan have repeatedly suggested, trying to use the glum precedent of the Carter presidency to taint Mr. Obama’s record and produce the same electoral result 32 years later.
The Republican candidates and their supporters have played the Carter card not nearly as often as the Obama team has brought up George W. Bush, who lurks near Mr. Carter in the lower ranks on historians’ ratings of American presidents. But they have pressed the Carter parallels all the harder since militants assaulted an American diplomatic mission in Libya and killed four Americans, saying it recalled the Iranian hostage crisis that dominated the news as Ronald Reagan ran his successful campaign against Mr. Carter.
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But not to worry, Shane assured us:
Historians say the broad parallels between Mr. Carter’s term and Mr. Obama’s make for legitimate comparisons. But many of the details differ, and some tilt decisively in Mr. Obama’s favor, both factually and politically.
And even some Republicans say that Mr. Obama’s greater personal popularity may mean the Carter label will not stick. Mr. Obama’s latest Gallup approval rating was near 50 percent; Mr. Carter’s was 37 percent in roughly the same period.
On the surface, at least, the recent anti-American protests across the Muslim world do bear resemblance to those in Iran after 1979. Both came in the chaotic jostling for power that followed the overthrow of authoritarian leaders.
But “America Held Hostage,” as ABC News called it in daily reports, dominated the news for more than a year. The standoff came to symbolize American helplessness and frustration.
By contrast, the deaths of American diplomats in Libya are not a continuing crisis. In fact, they prompted thousands of Libyans to demonstrate in protest against the violence, especially the killing of the widely admired American ambassador, J. Christopher Stevens. Mr. Obama has responded, in part, with tough talk, vowing at the United Nations on Tuesday to be “relentless in tracking down the killers and bringing them to justice.”
Shane used Obama administration techniques scorned by the left during the Bush years as examples of his toughness.
Mr. Obama began his presidency by reaching out to Iran and gave a tempered response when the pro-democracy Green Movement protests broke out there in 2009 -- a position the Romney campaign has seized on to accuse the president of “projecting weakness.”
But the case for weakness runs up against Mr. Obama’s record when it comes to the targeted killing of terrorism suspects, with hundreds of drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen. On Iran, administration officials point to tough sanctions and the president’s vow not to permit the country to obtain a nuclear weapon.