Does Barack Obama know what he is doing ? There is room for doubt. In foreign affairs he seems to be over his head. In domestic policy, he seems to be accomplishing what he wants to do. Hugh Hewitt asked former Vice President Dick Cheney his opinion.
Cheney said, “I vacillate between the various theories I’ve heard. If you had somebody who, as president — who wanted to take America down. Who wanted to fundamentally weaken our position in the world, reduce our capacity to influence events. Turn our back on our allies and encourage our enemies, it would look exactly like what Barack Obama is doing. I think his actions are constituted in my mind are those of the worst president we’ve ever had.”
Cheney has been involved in American government since Ford was president and knows a thing or two. What to make of Obama ?
The military correspondent of the Times of Israel has learned a few things since he supported Obama in 2008. Obama benefited from many people who saw him as a symbol and ignored his background and opaque record.
I noted, Bush, with his love of Zion, had been a disaster, inadvertently empowering Iran. Obama, with his cool detachment, was just what we needed.
Lastly, I encouraged her [his sister] to vote Democrat, now, before her Alex P. Keaton-like eldest got the right to vote and cancelled her out.
And she did (I think, maybe). She even wrote to me about the beauty of that cold January day in 2009 when he was sworn into office.
He was encouraging his sister to vote for Obama with the usual arguments made by intelligent people who believed Obama would be a good president. I never bought that argument. I knew the story of where he came from.
Then, reality began to creep in.
The Arab uprisings began in December 2010. My friends, like most Israelis, were up in arms over the abandonment of Hosni Mubarak. I was not. Mubarak was horrible. Egypt was a failed state. It could not even feed its own population.
Then, in June 2009, came the Green Movement in Iran. All of my Israeli friends mocked Obama and his detachment. I said it was best
In one ear, I heard the breathless praise of Tahrir from the English-language media I consumed: “In 40 years of writing about the Middle East, I have never seen anything like what is happening in Tahrir Square,” Thomas Friedman declared in February 2011. “In a region where the truth and truth-tellers have so long been smothered under the crushing weight of oil, autocracy and religious obscurantism, suddenly the Arab world has a truly free space — a space that Egyptians themselves, not a foreign army, have liberated — and the truth is now gushing out of here like a torrent from a broken hydrant.”
OK. He was still a believer. Huffington Post is populated with true believers. Then that finally ended.
I listened live to Israel’s top intelligence analyst, Brig. Gen. Itai Brun, tell an audience at a security conference in Tel Aviv that “the [Assad] regime has used and is using chemical weapons.” He described a specific date — March 19 — and said that the evidence pointed to a nerve gas called sarin. The ensuing acrobatics, performed in order to avoid the fact that Syrian dictator Bashar Assad had brazenly crossed Obama’s red line, drove home the fact that the main part of Obama’s Syria policy was conflict avoidance. In the Middle East, everyone from Riyadh to Tehran to Jerusalem took note. For the first time in my adult life, I felt like those Israelis I had met in my youth, the ones who tell you that you don’t understand because you don’t live in the region.
Read the rest. Now, what do we do ?
Consider that the skills required for being an American president and those useful for being a conspiratorial despot are opposites. America operates, to a larger extent than most countries anyway, on trust, public assent and the rule of law. By contrast, despotism calls for dishonesty, ruthlessness and a kind of megalomania. Anyone who makes a good despot will make a bad president. Anyone who makes a good president will be a bad despot.
Now consider the case of an ambitious mediocrity in the Oval Office who is enamored of himself. In trying to be the Lee Kuan Yew of Chicago such a man would blindside the American polity because where people expect a president to be forthcoming, he would lie. Where his political opponents relied on the protections of the law and custom, they would encounter small minded and vindictive persecution. He would succeed for a time by breaking all the rules and congratulate himself on his cleverness, even deluding himself into thinking that his Occupy Wall Street thugs are a street fighting force on par with the thugs of other strongmen.
But once this mediocre authoritarian was pitted against the real thing he would be overmatched by the pros. They would see through his amateurish plots in an instant. To his lies they would reply one better. Lawfare and the race card would bounce off Rouhani or Putin like peas off the frontal armor of a King Tiger Tank.
Obama seems to be brave and resourceful against domestic opponents like Republicans who are gentlemen and who fight with ethical responses and policies. Obama is willing to use unethical executive actions against those who respond in an ethical manner.
A Columbia law professor, Hamburger indicts the entire structure of executive-agency rulemaking as illegitimate. It’s not just the regulations that have to go but the regulators as well, since their job is to fling down the Constitution and dance on it.
For over 400 pages of a 511-page, doorstopper-weight text, Hamburger counts the ways in which the slithery Medusa’s head of executive-branch agencies—from the Interstate Commerce Commission and the National Labor Relations Board to the Environmental Protection Agency and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, all spitting out the venom of administrative law—constitutes a flagrant affront to the Constitution. For starters, the Constitution lodges all legislative power in Congress, which therefore cannot delegate its lawmaking function.
In a normal time, with a president who is not a symbol, impeachment would be a consideration. Bill Clinton was impeached for lying under oath. With Obama, that is not an option since his devoted base is made up in part by lawless violent people who consider themselves to be at war with the white majority. Sharpton should be in prison or bankrupt but instead:
Paying tribute to Sharpton and his group’s work over the course of the four-day festival at the Times Square Sheraton in Manhattan are three Cabinet-level officials in the Obama White House, plus former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers and former White House press secretary Robert Gibbs; no fewer than four mayors; most of the city and statewide elected officials of New York; and three would-be 2016 presidential contenders: Bernie Sanders, Martin O’Malley, and Republican Ben Carson.
That is why Obama will not be impeached.
This is not to say that there should have been no withdrawal from Lebanon or, later, from Gaza. Nor is it to say that any deal with Iran is, by definition, mistaken. But simply that it rests too firmly on optimism, is rooted too deeply in a sort of defeatism vis-à-vis the Islamic Republic of Iran, and is not backed up with muscle and a demonstrable willingness to use it.
The framework agreement with Iran, like [Ehud] Barak’s unilateral withdrawal from Lebanon, is transparently devoid of that willingness. Moreover, it comes after the public belittling of Israel’s [problematic, but that’s another story] prime minister, who has read the winds of change with distressing accuracy, and his subsequent handcuffing in terms of military action. Nor does it come with a credible guarantee from the president that he will be willing, or Israel will be welcome, to use military action in the event of a transgression. Instead, Obama told Friedman, “what I’m willing to do is to make the kinds of commitments that would give everybody in the neighborhood, including Iran, a clarity that if Israel were to be attacked by any state, that we would stand by them.”
And do what? Nurse us back to health from our nuclear-induced wounds?
In the end, this is not just about Israel. It is about whether the world will remain largely at peace as it has been since 1945 or will the forces of entropy be unleashed by this dishonest and narcissistic man ?
Oh, and Pakistan turned down the Saudi request for help in Yemen.