March 16 2011
When Did You First Realize You Miss Jimmy Carter?
A U.K. Telegraph headline about Japan's reclusive Emperor Akihito addressing his nation reminded me of something I'd forgotten: Japan still has an emperor. It is the first time that the emperor has addressed the nation over a natural disaster.
The unprecedented appearance of Emperor Akihito started me thinking: Where in the world is Barack Obama? I remember when I couldn't turn on the TV without his popping up like a jack in the box. John Podhoretz is also noticing Mr. Absent:
Where is the president? The world is beset. Moammar Khadafy is moving relentlessly to crush the Libyan revolt that once promised the overthrow of one of the world's most despicable regimes.
So where is the president?
Japan may be on the verge of a disaster that dwarfs any we have yet seen. A self-governing nation like the United States needs its leader to take full measure of his position at times of crises when the path forward is no longer clear.
This is not a time for leadership; this is the time for leadership.
So where is Barack Obama?
The moment demands that he rise to the challenge of showing America and the world that he is taking the reins. How leaders act in times of unanticipated crisis, in which they do not have a formulated game plan and must instead navigate in treacherous waters, defines them.
Obama is defining himself in a way that will destroy him.
It is not merely that he isn't rising to the challenge. He is avoiding the challenge. He is Bartleby the President. He would prefer not to....
He cannot go on like this. Niall Ferguson, the very pessimis tic economic his torian, wrote the other day that the best we can now hope for is that Obama leaves the country in the same kind of shape that Jimmy Carter left it in.
Just for the record, the president has attended a fund raiser, done his NCAA picks on ESPN, and expressed concern about gender-related issues in education on his weekly radio address.
Podhoretz thinks that Obama can still save his presidency if he can come across as a serious man grappling with serious issues. The unlikely model is Nixon of 1978 who, as the world erupted around him, showed competency in international policy. Working with Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, Nixon was fully engaged and, though he was a disaster later, he performed well then.
I'd like to see the president right himself-we need leadership, the world needs leadership. Even the aging and often invisible monarch of Japan knows that this is a time for leadership. But I think Obama is actually pursuing a policy: the policy of a Belgian foreign policy for America (though I wouldn't be surprised if Belgium is doing better than the U.S. right now). He is hiding, yes, but I think part of the reason he is hiding isn't just ineptness-he is hiding because he doesn't see leading as something the United States should be doing.
The other thing I worry about is that Obama, like many creatures of the faculty lounge, is vain but not serious. Those NCAA picks are the give away. I hope the world is not worse off than Carter left it when Obama leaves office.
Kudos to the American Thinker for this clever headline: "We are all golf widows now"
In the accompanying article, Betsy Galliher explains why the president's incessant golfing may be creating a bad image:
His incessant golfing isn't just insensitive. The baseball cap and shorts don't just reveal his immaturity. His actions tell us he is unaware of the world on fire around him. That it's someone else's concern. As any golf widow knows, it's the need to escape while those around him cannot, that is so irksome. He either believes his actions have no bearing on what's happening, or he simply doesn't care.