American Foreign Policy Has Gone on an Extended Hiatus
One of the all-time “dang, I wish I had written that” essays:
Earlier this month while visiting Monticello with a French delegation that included socialist President François Hollande, President Obama was caught in a moment joking about breaking protocol to view the grounds, quipping, “That’s the good thing as a President, I can do whatever I want.” Forget the enormity of the irony; an American President joking at Thomas Jefferson’s home that rules don’t apply to him and give Obama the benefit of the doubt that this was just a casual line.
It was no different than a line Michael Douglas would say in The American President or Kevin Kline in Dave or Martin Sheen in The West Wing, and that’s exactly the point. Obama has become a President of good lines from movies but unable to act like a very real leader.
The reason for the uproar over comments like this from this President is because he never wastes an opportunity to show just how right the absurdness of the social media noise machine is. When Obama jokes about being able to do whatever he wants, then turns around and hits an HBO producer up at a State Dinner for advanced copies of television shows to get him through an extended weekend, how are we as a desperate electorate supposed to react? We tolerate the luxuries afforded to our leaders. Just don’t be a d*** about it.
How is a world currently engulfed in flames of revolution supposed to react?
The problem for a President who makes any excuse to hit up a golf course or admits to watching tons of HBO is there are still events in the world happening outside his windows. People are desperate for American leadership and can’t wait for the killer on True Detective to be revealed.
Nobody in Kiev is interested in the fallout of the Red Wedding.
Nobody in Venezuela cares about the fate of Zoe Barnes . . .
At the height of violence that erupted with both protests this past weekend, where was he? Hosting a Hollywood premiere style party for #GeorgeClooney and cast of his film #TheMonumentsMen, in private at the White House, simply because he could. Right now in Kiev, historical statues and art are being burned in front of the world. He was content to remain silent and watch a movie about it happening instead. The real world does not interest this President. The set design does.
That essay is so darn good, there’s only a point or two left for me to add. First, particularly on foreign policy, Obama is done. Maybe he gets a trade deal, maybe he doesn’t. Sooner or later the last troops leave Afghanistan, and if the place falls apart like Iraq, with al-Qaeda flags flying over cities, well, that’s their problem. Pivot to Asia? Pshhhht. We don’t even put much effort into our old alliances anymore. The U.K. said they wouldn’t stick with us in any conflict in Syria; we don’t worry about antagonizing the Canadians over Keystone. The Benghazi killers still walk freely.
You can tell what’s important to the president by what he spends his time on, and what issues he returns to again and again. Obama really wants an immigration deal and to preserve Obamacare, and that’s about it. He doesn’t want to touch entitlement reform with a ten-foot pole. He’ll talk about global warming, but he knows the votes aren’t there for it and it’s more useful as a talking point. The deficit has shrunk from the worst ever to the fifth-worst ever, so as far as he’s concerned, the budget is fixed. Year of action? Whatever. The House isn’t getting any more cooperative before January 2017.
While we as Americans may really want to tune out the world, life goes on out there, and on a lot of fronts, it’s getting worse. Sooner or later, that translates into trouble on our shores. It may not come in the form of a hijacked airliner next time. Maybe it comes in the form of Chinese and Japanese navies trading fire over a misunderstanding and a resulting economic panic. Maybe it comes in the form of an Iranian nuclear test, but the Iranians will probably just want to drag out negotiations as long as possible to get as far along as possible before revealing they’ve got the bomb. Maybe Syria’s civil war really spreads to Lebanon, Iraq or even Jordan and Turkey in ways that endanger the governments of those countries. Maybe the nut-job running North Korea gets too provocative for anyone to ignore. Maybe it’s a cyber-attack.
Right now, the regimes in Venezuela and Ukraine are cracking down on uprisings, and the reaction from Washington alternates between pro forma denunciations and not much of anything. The world noticed. The world is reacting.
This is why the president gets the level of grief for golf, the movie screenings, and so on. He’s not doing that well at the basics of the job, and the White House wants us to believe everything’s running smoothly.