November 4, 2013

Obama's newest famous quote is "I'm really good at killing people" — but what was the context?

The Daily Mail cherry-picked the quote out of the new book "Double Down: Game Change 2012." The book's not out for normal people until tomorrow. (Buy it here.) So I'm stuck wondering. DM says:
A Washington Post report makes passing reference to the anecdote, saying that while speaking with his aides about the drone program Obama bragged that he was 'really good at killing people.' The Obama Administration has not responded specifically to reports of the alleged boast from the President.
The Daily Mail is punctilious enough to say "alleged" but can't resist characterizing the words as a "boast." We're told he "bragged." The headline says "President Obama joked...." Let's assume for the purposes of discussion that Obama really did say those words in that order. But let's try to imagine why he might have said that.

Perhaps you're imagining a childish man, exclaiming "I'm really good at killing people" like a numbskull teenager playing a first-person-shooter video game. Or maybe you're picturing someone more like a movie super-villain in his vast underground lair, cackling to his fawning minions as he creepily caresses his "kill" button.

But it's possible to think of a context in which Obama would be sympathetic. I could imagine a serious discussion of the lack of genuine accomplishment in his administration.
O: What will history say we have done? Nothing! I was the embodiment of hope, and everything I have touched has turned to ashes.

AIDE: But, sir....

O: What are the accomplishments? Name the accomplish of the Obama administration! What will people say?!

AIDE: He killed bin Laden.

O: A pathetic, isolated idiot sitting in his hovel, watching bad porn. The SEALs blew him away. That was really amazing of me.

AIDE: [Names several significant terrorists who have been killed through the drone program.]

O [sadly, sarcastically]: I'm really good at killing people.
Intent on writing this little dialogue, I searched for a list of 4 or 5 good names for the aide to tick off in an effort to bolster the President's spirits. See if you can do that. I couldn't do it. I kept running into "A List Of Children Killed By Drone Strikes In Pakistan and Yemen." Go there. Scroll through those names (and ages) and think about that context and why Obama might have said I'm really good at killing people.

54 comments:

Freder Frederson said...

My God, for someone who supported Bush's torture program and pointless war in Iraq, you sure don't cut Obama any slack.

Hammond X Gritzkofe said...

Well, when you think about it - even think about it a little bit - Obama's famous promise is almost certain to be a lie.

Obama would have spoken truth only if the Feral Gummit PROHIBITED insurance companies from removing an existing policy from their inventory.

Just does not pass the smell test. Obama speak is close to 98% either flagrant bullshit or flagrant narcissism.

Left Bank of the Charles said...

The Somali pirates now subject of the Captain Phillips movie were the first to go down under our Nobel Peace Prize winner. Let's remember that it's in the interest if the enemy to inflate the count of the women and children.

betamax3000 said...

O [self-pityingly]: I'm really good at killing people: People Don't Understand How Hard it Is. It Haunts My Aides, it Really Does, Sleepless Nights They Tell Me. When I See How Much They Worry About These Killings I Know They are Really Worrying About How It May Affect Me. Their Concern Should Help Me I Suppose, But the Concern of Those Without the Full Understanding is Surprisingly Empty. I Am Thankful I Have the Intelligence to See Beyond Their Little Worries and Weaknesses. Big Picture, I Tell Myself: I Am the Big Picture.

C Stanley said...

What's amazing is how completely impossible it is for me to imagine Obama saying the phrase sarcastically as in your imaginary script. The man has no humilty. None.

Bob Boyd said...

Good point,Professor. The quote lacked context and it was hard to picture a situation where a real person would utter those words, especially a person who isn't a combatant, but issues orders kill.

And apparently, the aide was ultimately able to get the President to come in off the ledge.

betamax3000 said...

O [feeling rejuvenated and proud]: I Always Keep My Eye on the Big Picture. In History Books to Come America Will Only Be Seen As "Pre-Obama" and "Post-Obama" -- I Will Be the Continental Divide of This Land's History.

Hagar said...

Yeah, it would have been something like that.
You have to understand, the guy believes his own propaganda.

MadisonMan said...

Death Panels!

tim in vermont said...

I don't know why he just doesn't try them with whatever tribunal he uses to try the people he kills with drones, then knock of the prisoners in the excercise yard with Hellfire missiles and be done with Guantanamo in a month.

Cedarford said...

Right now, the estimated collateral damage from drone strikes is 3%. Which is a record in warfare. Other ways end up with far higher percentages, even "heroes with boots" on the ground told they must accept extra casualties and deaths under ridiculously restrictive ROE. And of course the whole "innocent civilians!" leftist/media garbage is a giant pile of crap. What they are are enemy non-combatants...and many, even women and children have no problem helping out in battle scouting, ferrying ammunition and supplies to older male Jihadis. (who of course themselves are mostly just regular guys ordered to fight by "innocent civilian" village elders or Mullahs in power).

Most wars have been won by not excluding "enemy noncombatants" from the adverse effects of war. They send out the soldiers and fighters then supply them...so when war is no longer safe for them - the Enemy as a Whole - not just the cannonfodder on the front lines - sees it is pretty bad and should end. When Tokyo is bombed or Sherman devastates enemy noncombatant homesteads and cities in a sweep through the South, it has powerful effect on the enemy noncombatants and leaders safe from front line combat.

As for poor Freder, he still misses that everybody in war interrogates the enemy to hopefully save lives on their side. And the interrogations are all coercive to some extent. And the idea that only those you become "friends with" then pay to talk deliver truthful info, like the informant "Curveball", has always been a crock of leftist and McCain crap.

BarrySanders20 said...

I canm think of two situations.

It could be in comparison to W. That is the standard by which Obama wants history to judge him, though any honest assessment will conclude W blows Obama away as a leader.

Or he could have said it in connection with his desire to bomb Syria. You know, like Freder says, cut him some slack because he's shown himself to be so engaged and competent in everything else he's done.


I am not sure Obama is realy good at anything except reading off a teleprompter and getting elected. So I don't believe he is really good at killing people.

If this was some kind of derisive self-critique, Obama should have said "I am really good at killing BROWN people." That gives the quote a little more bite, and is more accurate to boot.

pm317 said...

Oh you were just wondering..But made me feel 'poor poor Obama, he is so helpless'

Larry J said...

Obama, a better policy wonk than his policy experts. A better speechwriter than his speechwriters. And a better killer than the Navy SEALS.

Nope, no delusions of adequacy in that one. None at all.

jacksonjay said...

Obama obviously decided that kills were cleaner than captures! Did intel suffer? Surely!

Anwar al-Awlaki and his son, 16 year old, Abdulrahman are two proud kills! Both American born citizens killed without a hint of due process!

I know, I know! TERRORISTS!

Cedarford said...

"I'm good at killing people"

I think the important point is only a narcissist would say such a thing when they are as far removed from actual war as Obama is. And lawyers "context" is irrelevant. Only a vainglorious punk would personalize the functions and powers of the Commander in chief as an extension of his own ego.

For the life of me, I cannot think of Presidents who have been a lot closer to war or in it...or killed quantum numbers more people ever saying such a thing in any context.

Lincoln - "You know friends, one thing I do pretty well is kill people"

FDR - "I sure did a great job killing lots of Jap and Germans this week from my wheelchair".

Eisenhower - "I love being a general because I am realy good at killing people."

Truman - "Boy, oh boy I sort of puff up knowing how fine I am as a President who is really good killing people."


William said...

I suppose he said it in a distanced, ironic way, but, even so, the President of the United States shouldn't be tossing off throw away lines about killing people. Ditto with lines about having enemies audited by the IRS......It's ok, though, to make jokes about the Special Olympics. Who doesn't enjoy a good laugh at kids with birth defects?

tim in vermont said...

I suggest we all cut Obama exactly the same amount of slack he cut for GWB.

Meade said...

Freder Frederson said…
…"you sure don't cut Obama any slack."

You surely didn't read the second half of her post.

Ann Althouse said...

"My God, for someone who supported Bush's torture program and pointless war in Iraq, you sure don't cut Obama any slack."

It's always: What does this mean for Obama?

Congratulations for your success in propagating this meme. You look great in this virus.

Here I am attempting to find a sympathetic meaning in the quote that's being used against Obama, but that's not enough for you. I faltered at one point, because in my effort to finish the post I'd begun, I got stymied by the difficulty of finding the names I was searching for, and I told you what I saw.

That is what the people of the world see too when they try to understand the drone program. They see indiscriminate killing. For Americans, we're supposed to see that our military men are not put on the line in these attacks. This is the pleasant face of Obama's war on terror. But Obama the candidate seemed to be saying that he would restore the world's opinion of America. For this promise, he won the Nobel Prize.

What is the face of America that the world sees with the drone program? It is the indiscriminate killing, including many children, done to spare the lives of our uniformed personnel.

Paul said...

The only thing Obama is really good at is being a legend in his own mind.

Bob R said...

The Althouse hypotheses of a sympathetic context is plausible, but still not that flattering. It comes off as a classic humblebrag. "Yeah I am tortured, conflicted, etc....but I can have someone put a cap in your head in no time flat."

Cedarford said...

jacksonjay said...
Obama obviously decided that kills were cleaner than captures! Did intel suffer? Surely!

Anwar al-Awlaki and his son, 16 year old, Abdulrahman are two proud kills! Both American born citizens killed without a hint of due process!

================
I think in any war, if an American soldier has a choice between killing a regular enemy soldier or one known to be an American citizen now a traitor fighting inn enemy uniform and under enemy command - he gladly shoots the traitor.

Libertarian assholes lose sight of that obvious reality of wartime rules. Affirmed at the highest levels in past wars. And seek to protect traitors from being targeted same as other enemy for some elaborate "due process legal trials" being the only option. That libertarian assholes think enemy with US citizenship are entitled to.

Henry said...

Knock 'em dead, Mr. President.

Ann Althouse said...

My post has been up for over and hour and no one has come up with the list of 4 or 5 names.

Freder?

Anybody?

West Texas Intermediate Crude said...

Occam's Razor dictates that he said it as a fact that he believes to be true. Once Mr. Obama decides that a person needs killin', it's just a matter of time. No need to justify it, no need to make sure it's legal or moral.
Mr. Obama is also good at lying, cheating at elections, and messing up other peoples' lives with ACA, his economic policies, and general abuse of his powers. As Glenn says, he joked about using the IRS to punish his enemies. It's best to take him at his word.

Meade said...

@Cedarford: Lincoln, FDR, Eisenhower, and Truman didn't have The Call of Duty®: Ghosts Prestige Edition "Epic Night Out"

Big Mike said...

That's nothing to say even sarcastically.

I'm a Vietnam-era veteran. All of us knew guys who returned stateside and were proud of how many "gooks" they had killed. We tended to give them a wide berth.

Oso Negro said...

I think we have killed al Qaeda's number two person six or seven times, but I can't remember the names.

Strelnikov said...

There is no context in which the POTUS could say this which would be self-exonorating.

n.n said...

In the first instance he sounds ghoulish. In the second instance he sounds bored. Either way, he is concerned about his career.

I wonder if Gosnell made a similar statement. I can just imagine the conversation in his clinic.

That's it. A clinical dissociation of risk and responsibility. That's the common element.

Freder Frederson said...

My post has been up for over and hour and no one has come up with the list of 4 or 5 names.

I don't know why it is my job to rectify your combination of inability to do basic internet research and/or laziness, but after a cursory search I came up with 52 just in Pakistan. Notice I set the filter to include only suspected militants.

William said...

I think the IED's and suicide bombers at wedding celebrations have a much higher body count than our drones. But that's not collateral damage. That's asymmetrical warfare and who would criticize asymmetrical warfare with the same moral fervor that they criticize collateral damage.

David said...

He's good at killing economies, that's for sure.

As to people, nearly all presidents have given orders that end up killing people. Bragging about it--if that is what he did--is for punks.

Ann Althouse said...

"I don't know why it is my job to rectify your combination of inability to do basic internet research and/or laziness, but after a cursory search I came up with 52 just in Pakistan. Notice I set the filter to include only suspected militants."

No, you did not accomplish the task. I don't want a list of suspected militants. You do realize the the administration admits to having an approach of referring to any of-age males in such terms. That was reported in the NYT.

I am asking for "a list of 4 or 5 good names for the aide to tick off in an effort to bolster the President's spirits."

And I didn't stop because I was "lazy." I stopped because I felt nauseated and chilled by the smallness of my project, an imagined comic dialogue, in light of the larger moral problem.

You, however, are pumped up with arrogance and contempt. Your eagerness to toady to a President is beyond disgusting here. You come across as a person who only cares about winning politically and has no feeling for humanity other than as an element of arguments used to manipulate other people.

If that isn't what you are, give us some kind of sign.

jacksonjay said...

Mr. Cedarford,

I will certainly admit to being an asshole! Libertarian I am not! Daddy al-Aw was certainly terrorist material but son was killed 2 weeks after Daddy and we admitted it was a "mistake."

I guess the question of "due process" goes to the sanctimonious position Saint Barry has taken on Gitmo! Detaining and interrogating terrorist offshore in heinous, but a "kill list" including Americans is necessary for national security! And of course, Barry and his boys have bragged about no oversight of this "kill list"!

paul a'barge said...

Scroll through those names (and ages)

No.

Waste of time.

Sad, sorry but necessary. Scroll through a list of names of the people killed in the US of A on 9/11/2001 by people directly supported by the Paki culture and government. Check out their ages.

Get back to me when your tears dry.

Freder Frederson said...

Your eagerness to toady to a President is beyond disgusting here.

This is rich coming from someone for whom George W Bush could do no wrong.

And please explain where I was "toadying" to the President. I was merely pointing to your rank hypocrisy. I made no attempt to defend the drone strikes. As a matter of fact, I think the drone program in the whole is reprehensible, a violation of international law, and worst of all, counterproductive.

As for your contention that I failed to accomplish the task, did you even bother to read the methodology in the provided link? The linked source is an independent non-profit agency based in London and supported by mostly European news agencies (including the BBC and al Jazeera English). They are not blindly taking the administration's word for who or who is not a militant.

I leave it to you to parse the list of militants to find four or five truly bad actors. It is not that hard, I did it and found quite a few in the list. But I won't trim it down for you because I want you to put some effort in it.

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Hagar said...

As a practical matter, there needs to be a general agreement that nation states that wish to kill its enemies by "drone program" or similar actions, must first publish the names of the intended targets and the reasons for being targeted, and that NGO's engaging in such actions will automatically be considered "outlaw" and treated as the pirates of old.

Otherwise, "turnabout is fair play," and also that "secret" assassinations obviously are subject to easy corruption, and the mere suspicion of corruption in such "programs" may be devastating to political support for the administration - at home and abroad.

Freder Frederson said...

Oh, and there are 258 reported militants, not 52 (My bad, I looked at the number of pages).

Freder Frederson said...

Right now, the estimated collateral damage from drone strikes is 3%.

Whose estimate is that. From my link, the collateral damage appears to be in the 50% range.

Mary Beth said...

As for your contention that I failed to accomplish the task, did you even bother to read the methodology in the provided link? The linked source is an independent non-profit agency based in London and supported by mostly European news agencies (including the BBC and al Jazeera English). They are not blindly taking the administration's word for who or who is not a militant.

You're missing the point. She's looking for a list of White House aides, not militants.

Henry said...

"Cheer up Mr. President. We mostly kill 'reported' militants."

"Enough with the air quotes, Susan. That's not funny anymore."

Meade said...

"Cheer up Mr. President. We mostly kill 'reported' militants."

"And cheer up even more, Mr. President Odroner. Sec. Freder bin Frederson was looking at the wrong number. Not just 52 but 258 reported militants have been targeted killed by you, sir. Bush/Cheney only targeted killed 30 something or so. You win again!"

Lydia said...

CNN provides some context for that remark that makes him sound somewhat rueful rather than boastful:

In late 2011, President Obama, "an inveterate list maker," began writing up a list of his achievements on a yellow legal pad. Writing his thoughts down on paper "helped him to quiet his mind." The purpose was to help himself and his advisers reason through the best ways to present his three-year track record to voters.

On September 30, the same day a Predator drone strike killed the American-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, Obama presented a small stack of yellow legal pages to his aides gathered in the White House's Roosevelt Room.

"Obama didn't need to run through this preamble," the authors write. "Everyone knew the litany of his achievements. Foremost on that day, with the fresh news about al-Awlaki, it seemed the president was pondering the drone program that he had expanded so dramatically and with such lethal results, as well as the death of bin Laden, which was still resonating worldwide months later.

" 'Turns out I'm really good at killing people,' Obama said quietly. 'Didn't know that was going to be a strong suit of mine.' "
.

Annie said...

I'm not so sure the drone strikes are used to spare the lives of uniformed personnel when the RoE are getting a hell of a lot more of them killed and wounded than happened under 8 years of Bush.
And regarding the so-called bragging of his kills. Look at the numbers. Kind of looks like he's a little too drone happy. Especially with the 'double taps'.
WP reports 145 in Libya, 326 in Pakistan, 93 in Yemen, a few in Somalia...compared to 52 by Bush, and yet Bush is the bad guy who made Obama do it because he started it. Or something.

Freder Frederson said...

I'm not so sure the drone strikes are used to spare the lives of uniformed personnel when the RoE are getting a hell of a lot more of them killed and wounded than happened under 8 years of Bush.

Can you provide any evidence to support this assertion?

heyboom said...

I can't imagine Freder putting this much energy into trying to give President Bush the benefit of the doubt. I also noticed how quickly his knee jerked on the subject though.

R.A. Crankbait said...

Obama got Osama bin Ladin, or as William Munny said to the Kid in "Unforgiven": Well, you sure killed the hell outta that guy.

Rusty said...

heyboom said...
I can't imagine Freder putting this much energy into trying to give President Bush the benefit of the doubt. I also noticed how quickly his knee jerked on the subject though.

What is truly amazing is he posted all that without taking Obama's cock out of his mouth.

n.n said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
n.n said...

Perhaps he was referring to Libya. What was the purpose of the assault and removal of Gaddafi? America did not have an immediate or outstanding interest in that nation.

Perhaps he was referring to Mexico.

Perhaps he was referring to Syria.

Perhaps he was referring to ...

Perhaps he was referring to his support and normalization (i.e. Obamacare) of elective abortion of around one million human lives annually in America alone. It is one time that he actually prefers the use of a scalpel in lieu of the hatchet jobs which he favors.

JoyD said...

My God, the words were so clearly uttered with weary and bitter irony.
Other interpretations are just cruel in their intent. When a President must make those tragically hard decisions, the haters are waiting with peanuts and popcorn to say aha!