The Obama administration is coming under increasing scrutiny for exploiting the war on terrorism for political gain. This week Representative Peter King, New York Republican and Chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, called for an investigation into reports that the White House had given Sony Pictures and Oscar-winning filmmaker Kathryn Bigelow inappropriate high-level access for filming a feature on the mission in which U.S. Special Operations Forces killed Osama bin Laden. Sony had also reportedly previously hosted a political fundraiser for the president. Mr. King stated in a letter to Defense Department Inspector General Gordon Heddell and CIA Inspector General David Buckley that the “Administration’s first duty in declassifying material is to provide full reporting to Congress and the American people, in an effort to build public trust through transparency of government. In contrast, this alleged collaboration belies a desire of transparency in favor of a cinematographic view of history.” The Obama-friendly film is scheduled for release in October 2012, a month before the presidential election.
This issue comes on the heels of a recent New Yorker piece on the Abbottabad raid that featured extremely detailed and probably classified information. A Pentagon source told The Washington Times that the Defense Department had nothing to do with supplying information for that article, that it was a White House production.
Mr. Obama sparked further controversy this week at Dover Air Force Base. The scene was the dignified transfer of remains of 30 U.S. service members and 7 Afghans killed Saturday when their Chinook helicopter was shot down. Due to the catastrophic nature of the crash the bodies were returned officially unidentified, thus family members were not able to give the necessary permission for press coverage. Also 19 of the 30 families strongly objected to any media presence. But the White House made certain that the president’s personal photographer was on hand, and within hours a photo was rushed out showing Mr. Obama saluting the unseen caskets. And even though the photo clearly shows Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and other dignitaries, only Mr. Obama was identified in the official caption. The White House awkwardly argued that the photo was released “in the interests of transparency.”
Liberal critics howled when George Bush made any reference to the September 11, 2001 attacks, accusing him of playing politics with a national tragedy. But Mr. Bush’s actions pale compared to Mr. Obama’s systematic milking of war-related events for political gain. Yet this effort will not yield him much traction. Those who care most about national security are unlikely to cast ballots for Mr. Obama, whose overall record is poor despite the bin Laden takedown. And he cannot further offend the members of his anti-war base, who have a long list of issues on which the president has been a major disappointment, from Guantanamo to secret prisons, from to renditions to drones.
By October 2012 a film about Osama bin Laden may not even make money, let alone sweep Mr. Obama back into office. The coming ten year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks will be an emotional watershed. With the al Qaeda leader dead and the symbolism of the decade since the attack, people will revisit that tragic day and find closure. By 2012 the emotional impact of a new film will be negligible. And if the economy is still sputtering and jobs are not being created, Mr. Obama’s reelection hopes will be, like bin Laden, at the bottom of the ocean.