President Obama’s emotionless first response that the downing of the Malaysia Airlines jet that took the lives of almost three hundred innocent people over Ukrainian farmland "may" have been a "terrible tragedy" stunned the world. But the president's initial reaction says a lot about the disconnected character of American leadership right now.
If you missed a particularly devastating article on the subject in the U.K.’s Daily Mail by Clark S. Judge, a former Reagan speechwriter (and a member of IWF’s Leadership Circle), I urge you to take a few minutes to read it this morning.
Using the perspective of a man who has been inside the White House and knows how an effective one operates, Mr. Judge gives a précis of how U.S. foreign policy has descended into chaos since the president’s empty red line threat about Syrian chemical weapons. He explains what a normal White House would have done if the president had made such a threat, off the cuff or otherwise. Judge also chronicles the bigger failures that came after the Syrian red line.
Why has so much of the global order come apart so fast?
For the same reason that, as a friend reports, on the streets of San Salvador those who will smuggle your child to the Rio Grande have been securing an unprecedented volume of sign-ups. When asked about the chances of the child staying in America once the border is crossed, they tell parents: ‘It has never been easier.’
Now the word on weakness is everywhere, even the poorest barrios of Central
‘The fact that you have a crisis in Ukraine has nothing to do with Gaza,’ a deputy national security adviser to the President told an interviewer recently.
The current White House doesn’t understand how US fecklessness in Syria can reverberate to Ukraine, and from there to the South China Sea, and the Americas, and Gaza and elsewhere in the Middle East.
In all this I have referred to the United States as the primary shaper of world events, which is, in fact, a misleading shorthand. The US is not a superpower so much as the biggest player in a set of super-alliances, the most critical of which is with the UK.
Since the Second World War, when the US and Britain have been of one mind, liberal values have been secure and even advanced. When either has lost its sense of direction, neither has been nearly so effective.
The great danger in being the anchor to the global order is that when we lose our way the general peace itself is threatened.
This is just what we are seeing in theatre after theatre around the world.
The other must-read piece from the weekend was former speaker Newt Gingrich’s “The Tranquility of Obama’s Mind” up at the CNN website. Gingrich was also taken with the president’s refusal to recognize, much less address, crises around the world whether in the Ukraine, at our southern border, which he adamantly refused to visit, or in the Middle East, where Israel is engaged in a battle for its very existence.
The former speaker writes:
With the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria causing the collapse of Iraq and continued violence in Syria, the Syrian dictatorship consolidating its power, the Iranians failing to take steps to end their nuclear weapons program and Hamas firing more than 1,000 rockets at Israel, the President and his team have moved decisively to brief The New York Times on his passion for late-night intellectual dinners exploring physics, architecture and questions far more profound than the fate of the Middle East.
It is as though the more dangerous the world becomes the more Obama hides in a fantasy world of avoiding the responsibilities of the presidency. He uses the office to surround himself with court jesters who distract him in an enlightened and noble way from the growing failures of his policies and the rapidly expanding threats to the civilized world.
Finally, as Russian President Vladimir Putin continues to flex his muscles and expand his policies, there is a psychologically bizarre pattern of the President's staff referring to Obama as "the Bear."
The President refers to himself when he asserts "the Bear is loose." Of course with a President who last week used "I", "my" or "mine" 207 times in one speech, the concept is beyond bizarre. The White House staff, thinking somehow that this was clever, promptly turned the phrase into a Twitter hashtag, #TheBearIsLoose.
Obama's idea of a loose bear is an unplanned walk to a Starbucks near the White House. Putin's idea of a loose bear is stealing Crimea.
And even more devastatingly, Mr. Gingrich explains what White House spokesman really meant when he referred recently to the “tranquility” in the world:
What he's channeling is Obama's personal tranquillity.
From his perch in the amazingly Obama-centric world in which our President lives, look again at what the rest of us think of as serious problems.
Have any of the 1,000–plus Hamas rockets been aimed at Obama? No. That is why Obama is tranquil.
Have any of the thousands who are crossing the border tried to move into the White House? No. That is why Obama is tranquil.
Is ISIS an immediate threat to the United States that is likely to blow up the next golf course the President is playing at? No. That is why Obama is tranquil.
If you can reduce your presidency to a Starbucks visit, a man with a horse-head mask, shooting pool and visiting Joe Biden's burger joint for lunch, you can have a successful presidency as you have defined it, even if the world is disintegrating.
It has taken the world a long time to notice, but I submit that the Obama presidency began in fantasy. What other American president could have gotten by with beginning his ascent with a virtually contentless, fantasy land speech in Berlin where he posed as a world deliverer? The Cairo speech President Obama delivered early in his tenure was similarly an exercise in fantasy, the fantasy that this special man, with his special history, could do magic. You have to be pretty ignorant of history to think that lion was going to lie down with the lamb because President Obama heard the call of the muezzin to prayer as a boy. History began long before Barack Obama and it was fantasy to think otherwise.
But Washington has become a fantasy land. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says that the border is closed, even as children (and people who are not children) stream across it in unprecedented numbers. The Congress votes to spend money the nation does not have. Democrats are effusive in their praise of how well ObamaCare is working. What began in fantasy is ending in fantasy.