| 2011 articles |
Saturday, 23 April 2011
After less than two months in office, President Obama made a decision that many at the time saw as un-presidential. In the midst of what even he was calling the most serious economic crisis since the Great Depression, Obama became the first sitting U.S. President to go on a late night comedy show. Bizarre as it might have been, ardent Obama defenders like Robert Bianco at the USA Today gave him a pass, writing, "Whatever one thinks of his policies, no one can accuse Obama of lacking gravity or dignity. He doesn't need any particular setting to bestow those qualities on him; he carries them with him." Or not.
Just a little over two years later, it has become clear that whatever you think of his policies, the current occupant of the White House harbors an irrepressible juvenility that undermines the dignity of the office he holds. The recent tongue lashing he administered to Republican Congressman Paul Ryan is the latest example of President Obama's increasingly evident maturity deficiency.
To grasp the magnitude of this spectacle, it is important to understand the context. At the start of the year, the President spoke directly to Republican House leaders at their annual retreat. There, he took on a tone reminiscent of his hope-n-change, post-partisan healer routine from the 2008 campaign trail, urging, "I don't think [the American people] want more partisanship... They didn't send us to Washington to fight each other in some sort of political steel cage match to see who comes out alive... They sent us to Washington to work together, to get things done."
In such an environment of cooperation and collaboration, President Obama invited Congressman Paul Ryan -- the architect of the recent Republican budget plan -- to sit in the front row, just inches from the presidential lectern at his recent budget address. It would be fair to assume that Ryan believed this to be a sign of goodwill. Though the President was sure to disagree with portions of his plan, Ryan probably felt he was in for a bipartisan pat on the back and an expression of appreciation for tackling this monumental challenge. Why else would the President save him such a seat of prominence?
How about the Playground Bully-in-Chief could ambush Ryan and make an example of him in front of the country? For the better part of an hour, the President of the United States lambasted Ryan's efforts publicly as little short of abandoning autistic kids to the sewers and locking Granny in the attic.
Given this undignified blindside, Rep. Ryan would have been well within his rights to walk out of the hall in disgust. But apparently, decorum and respect are words that find meaning in the Ryan vocabulary -- more than can be said for our Chief Executive. After all, this recent manifestation of his brazen childishness is but one thread in a much larger tapestry of immaturity that has emerged.
Remember that in 2008, John McCain purchased an ad to simply congratulate Mr. Obama the night he accepted the Democratic Party's nomination. Obama couldn't find the grace to return the favor to the former POW, instead making a political calculation to attempt to upstage McCain's big moment by conducting his long-anticipated interview with Bill O'Reilly.
Further, since winning the presidency, Mr. Obama has refused to honor the longstanding, unspoken rule of presidential etiquette not to blame your predecessor. And as if the petulant strains of "it's all Bush's fault," weren't enough, Obama took it a step further by refusing to credit Bush for the clear success of the Iraqi surge strategy -- a strategy that while in the Senate, Mr. Obama vehemently opposed. Instead, his administration is shamelessly posturing to call Iraq one of its own greatest successes.
And while several presidents have been rumored or known to have used colorful language in private (Nixon and Johnson are a bipartisan couple of potty-mouths that come to mind), Barack Obama has the dubious distinction of being the first to do so publicly during a morning television interview. The President apparently thought that using profanity while threatening to kick people's bottoms would be a fine example of presidential poise to set for the nation's youth as they ate their morning Cheerios.
But perhaps, in hindsight, the most instructive example we could have noted in the lead-up to the budget bullying extravaganza was President Obama's unprecedented attack on the Supreme Court during his 2010 State of the Union Address. There as honored guests of the Congress, the President thought it an appropriate time to directly chastise and scold them for interpreting the law differently than his ideology dictates. The esteemed justices, like Ryan, were forced to sit there silently (though Justice Alito famously mouthed his displeasure) and endure an un-presidential reprimand.
Far from being a post-partisan healer, President Obama has proven himself to be petty, juvenile, and someone totally lacking the temperament and class we should expect from an Oval Office executive. Apparently coming to grips with this uncomfortable reality as they watch him forgo press conferences for Daily Show and Tonight Show appearances, some on the left have taken a different approach in defending him.
Writing a piece entitled (no joke), "The Trouble with Presidential Dignity," the New Republic author Jonathan Chait concluded, "our problem is not too little presidential dignity but too much." That's one national problem I feel confident that the presidency of Barack Obama will correct.
This column was first published at The American Thinker.
Saturday, 16 April 2011
I'm hoping someone can help me. I left on vacation last week, and when I got back, an entire war was missing. I've looked for it on all the major networks and cable outlets (excepting Fox News), as well as all the major newspapers. Although I've found hints that it still exists somewhere, President Obama's Libyan War is officially missing in action.
The President actually set the stage for this vanishing act in his speech defending our involvement in Libya. Trying desperately to find a way to distinguish his overseas military operation from the ones he had vociferously condemned as a candidate, the President explained that our role in Libya was pretty much done already. "Our most effective alliance, NATO," he said, "has taken command of the enforcement of the arms embargo and the no-fly zone...This transfer from the United States to NATO will take place on Wednesday. Going forward, the lead in enforcing the no-fly zone and protecting civilians on the ground will transition to our allies and partners."
So transparent was his attempted charade that even liberal comedian Jon Stewart couldn't pass up the opportunity to chide Obama's silliness, exclaiming on The Daily Show in trademark fashion that in essence we are NATO. His frustration was echoed by other leftists like Brian Becker of the anti-war coalition ANSWER who explained, "That's a fraud. When the U.S. hands the mission to NATO, it's handing the mission over to itself." They're both right in the sense that from its inception, NATO has been a U.S. led organization.
And even if parading underneath the NATO banner rather than the Stars and Stripes, it still largely remains American might, American forces, American bombs, American firepower, American resources, American tax dollars, and American resolve that is fueling action there.
So why the deception? Because for Obama, far more delicate than even the decision to commit to military action in Libya in the first place is the potential for a drawn out affair. His powers of persuasion will be useless in motivating his liberal base during the 2012 presidential election should the conflict linger. The president was apparently so panicked about such a reality that he uncharacteristically telegraphed this unmistakable message to his allies in the American media: "I'm declaring that there's nothing to be seen in Libya, you make sure to ignore it and talk about other things."
And proving the sorry state of the once independent press, they have willfully submitted to the president's template. For the last couple weeks, as Americans have been bombarded with news stories about the budget debate, statues, museums, zoos, and even Bob Dylan concerts in China, the war rolls on. And to be blunt, it isn't going well.
According to the boots on the ground (who aren't really on the ground, of course, because the president promised they wouldn't be), the Libyan conflict is headed for a deadlock. Carter Ham, the American General who led the coalition air campaign has said not to expect the NATO supported rebels to be able to defeat Khadafy. As the New York Daily News reported, "Asked at a Senate hearing about the chances that the rebels could reach Tripoli and oust Khadafy, Ham said, ?I would assess that as a low likelihood.' He said the situation was becoming a stalemate."
A stalemate? If that doesn't convince you of the chronic incompetence currently plaguing the Oval Office, nothing will. As Mark Steyn recently observed, "The Tunisians got rid of Ben Ali in nothing flat, Mubarak took a couple of weeks longer to hit the road, and an exciting new ?Islamic Emirate' has just been proclaimed in South Yemen. But, with his usual unerring instinct, Barack Obama has chosen to back the one Arab liberation movement who can't get rid of the local strongman even when you lend them every functioning NATO air force."
What is unfolding in Libya is simply this: perpetual American military engagement, excessive spending of taxpayer dollars, abject refusal to articulate a clear and pronounced objective, and the unnerving absence of any apparent exit strategy. It seems like not that long ago we were hearing such a scenario described by the American media as a quagmire, weren't we?
In Iraq they trumpeted every death, every setback, every struggle as part of their ongoing effort to defeat President Bush. But now, confronted with the perfect example of American presidential ineptitude, a flailing Commander-in-Chief leading a confused, bizarre military operation with no real purpose, they wag the dog.
And though flagrant media bias comes as no surprise, this sin of omission is particularly galling given the indignant drumbeat of negativity that defined their coverage of previous military conflicts. It is the clearest example yet of how desperate the leftist media is to get President Obama re-elected.
Already committed to white-washing his glaring flip-flops on closing Guantanamo, military tribunals and renditions, spinning his miserable economic record, candy-coating his abysmal performance on job creation, they have now devoted themselves to wiping an entire war (or, as the administration prefers to call it, "kinetic military action") from the American conscience. If he can't win with the unprecedented advantage of having the mainstream press ransoming their credibility for four more years, it will put an exclamation point on how out of his league Barack Obama truly is.
This column was first published at The American Thinker.
Friday, 01 April 2011
During President Obama's Libyan War address, I was listening for one thing. While most Americans were already aware of what a madman Gaddafi was, as well as the evil he was committed to perpetrating against his own people, what we weren't clear on was how a man who persistently derided the Iraq War as "dumb" could justify intervention in a less dangerous state like Libya.
Like any good professor, President Obama didn't just come out and explain the distinction. He made us work to find it. And there, buried beneath a few extra helpings of his trademark verbosity, I heard eleven key statements that, when compared to former President Bush's justification for the invasion of Iraq, explain the conundrum "Iraq Bad, Libya Good" perfectly.
First, President Obama reminded us that America should always be hesitant to take up arms. He counseled, "Mindful of the risks and costs of military action, we are naturally reluctant to use force to solve the world's many challenges. But when our interests and values are at stake, we have a responsibility to act." Contrast that with Bush's 2003 address when he said, "This nation fights reluctantly, because we know the cost...we strive for peace. And sometimes peace must be defended."
In the case of Gaddafi, Mr. Obama stressed that he is a "tyrant," and that "He has denied his people freedom, exploited their wealth, murdered opponents at home and abroad, and terrorized innocent people around the world." Bush, meanwhile, only called Saddam Hussein a "dictator" who had, "already used [the world's most dangerous weapons] on whole villages, leaving thousands of his own citizens dead, blind or disfigured."
Obama reminded us that Gaddafi had been given, "a final chance to stop his campaign of killing, or face the consequences. Rather than stand down, his forces continued their advance." Bush merely said that Saddam had been given, "his final chance to disarm. He has shown instead utter contempt for the...opinion of the world."
And while our current President was able to tout, "a strong and growing coalition" of support that included 11 countries, our former President could only point to, "more than 35 countries [that] are giving crucial support."
Let's also not forget how inconsistent President Bush was during the Iraq War. Standing in front of a "Mission Accomplished" banner, he declared that "Major combat operations in Iraq have ended." This just before adding that, "Our mission continues," and, "now our coalition is engaged in securing and reconstructing that country." Obama had no such dissonance as he announced with finality that, "the United States of America has done what we said we would do," before immediately following up with, "That is not to say that our work is complete."
And what work remains? President Obama carefully outlined, "The transition to a legitimate government that is responsive to the Libyan people will be a difficult task," promising that, "the United States will do our part to help." President Bush never gave such an up-front assessment, saying only, "We have difficult work to do in Iraq...The transition from dictatorship to democracy will take time, but...our coalition will stay until our work is done."
President Obama was careful to point out that our involvement in Libya was critical to protect, "the democratic impulses that are dawning across the region [that] would be eclipsed by the darkest form of dictatorship." This while President Bush had only suggested that our involvement in Iraq could help by, "inspiring [democratic] reforms throughout the Muslim world."
What's more, President Obama wisely understood that without taking action against Gaddafi, "The writ of the UN Security Council would have been shown to be little more than empty words, crippling its future credibility to uphold global peace and security." Bush, of course, was disinterested in UN integrity, challenging, "Iraq has answered a decade of UN demands with a decade of defiance...Are Security Council resolutions to be honored and enforced or cast aside without consequence?"
And while Bush offered an inconclusive, "We do not know the day of final victory," before patronizingly reassuring us that our enemy's "cause is lost," President Obama did nothing of the sort. He quite bluntly told us, "The day when Gaddafi leaves power...may not happen overnight," before promising us that, "history is not on his side."
We all remember Bush's ignoble guarantee that we would be welcomed by the Iraqi people as heroes, even thanking Iraqis who, "welcomed our troops and joined the liberation of their own country." President Obama threw out no such jingoistic red meat as he recounted how our downed airman parachuting into Libya, "did not find enemies. Instead, he was met by people who embraced him."
Finally, President Bush delivered a frighteningly open-ended promise to involve the United States in the internal affairs of sovereign nations around the world by suggesting, "American values, and American interests, lead in the same direction: We stand for human liberty." Thankfully, President Obama didn't do anything remotely similar when he declared, "Wherever people long to be free, they will find a friend in the United States."
You see? Two diametrically different defenses of two remarkably dissimilar conflicts. One was dumb, the other is obviously brilliant. If, after reading those quotes, you're still perplexed by the Professor-in-Chief's logic, let me give you the CliffsNote version: military intervention is dumb only when it's started by a Republican.
This column was first published at The American Thinker.