Is our foreign policy better off than it was two years ago?

President Obama was elected partly because he had a gift for making speeches.

Now we seem to have the administration that won’t shut up. The tendency to talk too much seems to be contagious.  Why on earth would CIA Director Leon Panetta say what Mubarak was supposedly going to say in a speech in a few hours?  Like most Americans, I have been absolutely pulling for the administration to get this right or, at best, to do no harm.

But we’ve hit the “reset” button on an almost daily basis, and we haven’t gotten it right yet. 

As my old friend author Barry Rubin, head of the excellent Gloria Center and  the possessor of  deep knowledge of the Middle East, observes:  

This is not a game. This is the fate of the globe. This involves the lives of tens of millions of people. Partisanship and scoring political points is irrelevant.

Forget the spin; forget the ignorance about Egypt and the Middle East by instant experts (and sometimes by top intelligence officials). What has happened in the Egypt crisis?

The first point-which I’ve been warning about for more than two years-is the incapability of the Obama Administration on several different levels. Following George W. Bush, many people thought, was an easy act to follow. But the quality of the American leadership has grown worse.

There has been an attempt to spin President Husni Mubarak’s speech as some type of victory for the Obama Administration. Yet within hours this effort collapsed. The nation’s highest intelligence officials showed they had no idea what the Muslim Brotherhood represents, joked that they didn’t know any more than did CNN, and provided completely inaccurate information on the course of events in Egypt….

The president of the United States leaped into an issue he didn’t understand, put forward a bad policy, showed he didn’t comprehend the most basic principles of statecraft and diplomacy, publicly celebrated as if he were making a campaign speech projected events in Egypt that didn’t happen, and then admitted that he had no idea what was going on.

Even some of his biggest left-wing fans had to admit this was a debacle. “The mystique of America’s superpower status has been shattered,” said Steve Clemons, of the New America Foundation.  

Well, who is shattering it? Not the demonstrators; not Mubarak. That catastrophe can only be traced to one man.

From the Middle East itself, the reviews are indeed shattering. The Saudis, just about the most cautious and conservative government there is in the world, publicly rebuked President Obama on his strategy. This is not primarily an issue concerning Israel. It’s an issue affecting anyone in the Middle East who opposes revolutionary Islamism and looks to the United States as a protector.

The administration’s response to Mubarak’s speech would have been funny if this were a less dire situation:

U.S. government has drawn a lesson that is the exact opposite from the one they should be taking. Obama is in danger of becoming Captain Abab, with not just Mubarak but the entire Egyptian government and army cast in the role of the white whale. One almost feels that this is going to end with President Obama going to Tahrir Square to join the demonstrators.

Barry lives partly in Israel and cares intensely about the fate of the Middle East’s only democracy, whose existence grows even more precarious if an Islamist government takes control of Egypt. But I think his take on how our government has performed is, as the Brits say, spot-on.