I missed the president's speech, but I see that he was heckled by Medea Benjamin of Code Pink -- repeatedly:
As he spoke about wanting to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay and mentioned being limited by Congress, Benjamin interrupted.I think he wanted her there. I think he wanted her to stay there. It would not surprise me to learn that he knew she was there and asked the security detail to let her stay awhile. (She was eventually removed.) I think he wanted her kept there long enough to heckle him a few times. I think he wanted her there so he could triangulate.
"Excuse me, President Obama, you are commander in chief ... it's you, sir," she shouted. As she continued, shouting about the hunger strikers there, Obama tried to keep speaking.
He got through a few more lines of his speech before Benjamin interrupted again. He spoke over her, "This is part of free speech, is you being able to speak, but also me being able to speak and you listening," he said.
Moments later, Obama added: "I'm willing to cut the young lady who interrupted me some slack because it's worth being passionate about."
Finally, after Benjamin again shouted, this time about Americans killed by drone strikes, including the 16-year-old son of Anwar al-Awlaki, security officers started guiding her out of the hall.
"Abide by the rule of law, you're a constitutional lawyer," she said as she was guided up steps out of the auditorium.
After all, in this speech he rejected the term "global war on terror." He announced that he's putting some curbs on drone attacks and making moves toward greater transparency. he's also looking to Congress to stop blocking the closure of the Guantanamo prison, and he'd like to overturn the Authorization to Use Military Force that was passed a few days after 9/11.
So, even though he defended the drone program in general, and the notion of a continuing militarized response to Islamist violence, he is, naturally, making himself vulnerable to attacks from crazy, war-loving right-wingers -- or, as they're more commonly known, "the entire Republican Party apart from Ron Paul." (Paul is, needless to say, crazy on pretty much every other issue.)
And so we have this response:
The senior Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee said President Obama's national security speech will be "viewed by terrorists as a victory."
Sen. Saxby Chambliss (Ga.) made the remarks in a statement released moments after Obama's speech....
So that's one thing the heckling accomplished -- it helped create the image that Obama is in the center, somewhere between the GOP and Code Pink. But does heckling like this accomplish anything else?
There are those who think so:
But activism shouldn't be judged on some abstract scale of intensity. It should be judged on whether it's effective.
I get that some aren't down with raucous activism but the fall out of GTMO & drones aren't "polite" - why should activism against them be?— Jessica Valenti (@JessicaValenti) May 23, 2013
Was this in any way effective? Did it help increase the number of people in this country who are willing to move to the left of the acceptable range of opinions on post-9/11 foreign policy? (Making the same relatively small group of lefties cheer is meaningless. Did this win new converts, or at least get people to reconsider their positions?)
I don't know. I suspect not. I certainly don't think this is how you move public opinion on a large scale.
The very conventional efforts of the anti-Iraq War movement actually did help change minds on a fairly large scale; unfortunately, it took years, and too many lives were lost or ruined in the interim.
This? I think it just gave Obama a foil.