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10 Concerns about Barack Obama
It's policy.


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William J. Bennett

1. Barack Obama’s foreign policy is dangerous, naïve, and betrays a profound misreading of history. For at least the past five years, Democrats and liberals have said our standing in the international community has suffered from a “cowboy” or “go-it-alone” foreign policy. While politicians with favorable views of our president have been elected in Germany, Italy, France, and elsewhere, Barack Obama is giving cause to make our allies even more nervous. This past Sunday’s Washington Post reported, “European officials are increasingly concerned that Sen. Barack Obama’s campaign pledge to begin direct talks with Iran on its nuclear program without preconditions could potentially rupture U.S. relations with key European allies early in a potential Obama administration.”

Barack Obama’s stance toward Iran is as troubling as it is dangerous. By stating and maintaining that he would negotiate with Iran, “without preconditions,” and within his first year of office, he will give credibility to, and reward for his intransigence, the head of state of the world’s chief sponsor of terrorism. Such a meeting will also undermine and send the exact wrong signal to Iranian dissidents. And, he will lower the prestige of the office of the president: In his own words he stated, “If we think that meeting with the president is a privilege that has to be earned, I think that reinforces the sense that we stand above the rest of the world at this point in time.” Not only has his stance toward Iran caused concern among our allies in Europe, U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton called it, “Irresponsible and frankly naïve.”

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Barack Obama’s position on negotiating with U.S. enemies betrays a profound misreading of history. In justifying his position that he would meet with Iran without precondition and in his first year of office, Barack Obama has said, “That is what Kennedy did with Khrushchev; that’s what Nixon did with Mao; what Reagan did with Gorbachev.”

In reverse order, Ronald Reagan met with no Soviet leader during the entirety of his first term in office, not (ever) with Brezhnev, not (ever) with Andropov, not (ever) with Chernenko. He met only with Gorbachev, and after he was assured Gorbachev was a different kind of Soviet leader — and after Perestroika, not before.

If Barack Obama wants to affiliate with Richard Nixon, that’s certainly his call. But one question: Was Taiwan’s expulsion from the U.N. worth “Nixon to China”? That was the price of that meeting.

As for the Kennedy-Khrushchev summit of 1961, Kennedy himself said “He beat the hell out of me.” As two experts recently wrote in the New York Times: “Paul Nitze, the assistant secretary of defense, said the meeting was ‘just a disaster.’ Khrushchev’s aide, after the first day, said the American president seemed ‘very inexperienced, even immature.’ Khrushchev agreed, noting that the youthful Kennedy was ‘too intelligent and too weak.’ The Soviet leader left Vienna elated — and with a very low opinion of the leader of the free world.”

So successful was the summit that the Berlin Wall was erected later that year and the Cuban Missile Crisis, with Soviets deploying nuclear missiles in Cuba, commenced the following year.

2. Barack Obama’s Iraq policy will hand al-Qaeda a victory and undercut our entire position in the Middle East, while at the same time put a huge source of oil in the hands of terrorists. Barack Obama brags on his website that “In January 2007, he introduced legislation in the Senate to remove all of our combat troops from Iraq by March 2008.” His website further states that “Obama will immediately begin to remove our troops from Iraq. He will remove one to two combat brigades each month, and have all of our combat brigades out of Iraq within 16 months.” This, at the very time our greatest successes in Iraq have taken place. And yet, as Gen. David Petraeus has stated (along with other military experts from Michael O’Hanlon at the Brookings Institution to members of the U.S. military), our progress in Iraq is “fragile and reversible.”

Obama’s post-invasion analysis of Iraq is anything but credible or consistent, leading one to even greater doubt about his strategy as commander-in-chief. When President Bush announced the surge strategy in January 2007, Barack Obama opposed it, saying it “would not prove to be one that changes the dynamics significantly,” and that “the President’s strategy will not work.” Of course, the surge is one of the greatest achievements in Iraq since the initial months of the invasion, and is has reversed much of the loss suffered since the invasion.

Beyond these miscalculations and poor judgment on Iraq strategy, Obama has been anything but consistent on Iraq. For example, the same year (2007) he stated it would be a good idea to bring home the U.S. troops from Iraq within March of 2008, three months later he stated, we should bring them home “immediately…. Not in six months or one year — now.”

3. Barack Obama has sent mixed, confusing, and inconsistent messages on his policy toward Israel. Earlier this month, Barack Obama told an audience at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, “Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided.” The next day, Obama backtracked, stating: “Obviously, it’s [Jerusalem] going to be up to the parties to negotiate a range of these issues…And Jerusalem will be part of the negotiations.” Later, Obama’s Middle East adviser tried to explain the flipping of positions on Jerusalem by stating Obama did not understand what he was saying to AIPAC: “[h]e used a word to represent what he did not want to see again, and then realized afterwards that that word is a code word in the Middle East.”

Such quick switches of policy may stem from mere inexperience or they may stem from a general tone-deafness on the meaning of words and policy when it comes to the Middle East. After all, earlier this year, a leading Hamas official endorsed Barack Obama stating, “I do believe [Obama] is like John Kennedy, a great man with a great principle. And he has a vision to change America to make it in a position to lead the world community, but not with humiliation and arrogance.” Rather than immediately renouncing such an endorsement, Obama’s chief political strategist, David Axelrod, embraced the endorsement, saying “We all agree that John Kennedy was a great president, and it’s flattering when anybody says that Barack Obama would follow in his footsteps.” Given Barack Obama’s long-standing ties to Palestinian activists in the U.S., one has good cause to wonder.

4. While his Mideast policy may have been the quickest turnaround or flip-flop on a major issue, it is not the only one. In the primary campaign, Barack Obama consistently campaigned against NAFTA, but has now changed his tune, as he has with other issues. During the primary, Obama sent out a campaign flier that said “Only Barack Obama consistently opposed NAFTA,” and called it a “bad trade deal.” He also said NAFTA was “devastating,” “a big mistake,” and in what the Washington Post labeled as a unilateral threat to withdraw from NAFTA, Obama said “I think we should use the hammer of a potential opt-out as leverage.”

No longer. Recently, Barack Obama backtracked on NAFTA and said, “I’m not a big believer in doing things unilaterally.” “I’m a big believer in opening up a dialogue and figuring out how we can make this work for all people.” He explained his primary campaign opposition this way: “Sometimes during campaigns the rhetoric gets overheated and amplified.”

This is of a piece with his further change of position on public campaign financing. As a primary candidate, he touted his support for the public financing of presidential campaigns, but then witnessing his own fundraising prowess, as a general election candidate he has gone the unique route of forswearing the system. As David Brooks put it in the New York Times:

Barack Obama has worked on political reform more than any other issue. He aspires to be to political reform what Bono is to fighting disease in Africa. He’s spent much of his career talking about how much he believes in public financing. In January 2007, he told Larry King that the public-financing system works. In February 2007, he challenged Republicans to limit their spending and vowed to do so along with them if he were the nominee. In February 2008, he said he would aggressively pursue spending limits. He answered a Midwest Democracy Network questionnaire by reminding everyone that he has been a longtime advocate of the public-financing system. But Thursday, at the first breath of political inconvenience, Fast Eddie Obama threw public financing under the truck.

5. Barack Obama’s judgment about personal and professional affiliations is more than troubling. On March 18, after several clips of sermons by his longtime friend and pastor Jeremiah Wright surfaced (showing Wright condemning the United States with vitriolic comparisons and denunciations), Obama defended his friend stating: “I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community. I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother.” After Rev. Wright delivered two more talks along the same lines as the clips that led to the March 18 speech, Sen. Obama finally denounced Wright the following month, stating: “His comments were not only divisive and destructive, but I believe that they end up giving comfort to those who prey on hate, and I believe that they do not portray accurately the perspective of the black church.” “They certainly don’t portray accurately my values and beliefs,” he said.



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