President Obama’s choice of a topic for his weekend radio address was pretty stunning:
A conflict approaching civil war in Libya. An end-times tsunami in Japan. A Congress that can’t reach a budget.
And … gender inequality?
The topic of President Obama’s weekend radio address has raised some eyebrows, as Obama has met mounting crises with the same restraint and cool that characterized his slow-and-steady campaign for president. To some critics, the tone set by the White House in light of recent upheaval may hurt the president’s public image.
Amid chaos around the world and on Capitol Hill, Obama’s Saturday radio address was devoted to Women’s History Month and a call to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, a proposal meant to address the income gap between men and women. Then, the president went golfing at Andrews Air Force Base.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also took time out from her busy schedule not doing very much of significance on the international front to stand up for the rights of women at Tina Brown’s Women in the World summit over the weekend in New York.
Several points are to be made: the first is simply that women in the U.S. are doing so well, and most of us know it (unless we buy into bogus wage gap figures) that the whole exercise of Women’s History Month has a stale feeling. Do we really need WHM?
But what about the president’s and secretary’s fiddling with gender issues as the world burns (literally in Libya)? There have been calls for the president to do something. Don’t just stand there uttering banalities, Mr. President. But I think he is doing something-he is pursuing the exact foreign policy for the U.S. that he believes in his heart is right.
No, he can’t come out and say, “I believe in a powerless America.” Instead he has to hem and haw about exploring options, holding meetings, etc. to produce the powerless America in which he believes.
When there is no conflict with the president’s ideology-as in the need for humanitarian aid to Japan-he is quick to seize the levers of power and act. But events such as those in the Middle East are distractions from the real work of creating a powerless American foreign policy.
Events that require action are for Obama-whether in Libya or Egypt-interruptions his mission of achieving a changeed United States. Michael Goodwin nailed this Sunday in the New York Post:
His responses range from halfhearted to wrongheaded. Nothing is working. Unhappy voters already repudiated his first two years and might fire him when they get the chance. It is a moment that brings home the truth of the sign on Harry Truman’s desk: “The buck stops here.”
Yet my suspicion is that it’s not the problems per se that have Obama envying a lower rung on the global ladder. It’s that he regards them as endless distractions that keep getting in the way of his transformative agenda.
He is a man of the faculty lounge who wants a blank slate so he can remake the nation into a more perfect place, as he sees it. Remember, he greeted his election with the messiah-like claim that future generations would say, “This was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal.”
But damn it, the country and the world won’t cooperate. Because he has no significant experience that would give him a framework for any other response, he is reduced to vaporous platitudes that dispirit allies and embolden adversaries.
He wants America to be less exceptional and more like every other nation. He’s uncomfortable with our status as the No. 1 superpower, as he made clear with his apology tours and by submitting to the lowest common denominator in the United Nations.
He talks about wanting Moammar Khadafy to go but takes no action to make it happen and even signed on to an arms embargo that the State Department says bars our supplying the rebels.
But gender issues? These are important to the president and secretary of state. That is part of their agenda of change. Unfortunately for them, they are too late. Women don’t need President Obama and Ms. Clinton. I wish I could say the same for the Libyan rebels (Ms. Clinton finally meets with rebels in Paris this week, but it may be too late to help them in any meaningful way).