Monday, May 12, 2014

Of Hashtags, Selfies And Balls

On Friday May 9th, the man whose wit and wisdom I adore wrote this:
“It is hard not to have total contempt for a political culture that thinks the picture at right is a useful contribution to rescuing 276 schoolgirls kidnapped by jihadist savages in Nigeria. Yet some pajama boy at the White House evidently felt getting the First Lady to pose with this week's Hashtag of Western Impotence would reflect well upon the Administration. The horrible thing is they may be right:  Michelle showed she cared—on social media—and that's all that matters, isn't it?” 
“Just as the last floppo hashtag, #WeStandWithUkraine, didn't actually involve standing with Ukraine, so #BringBackOurGirls doesn't require bringing back our girls. There are only a half-dozen special forces around the planet capable of doing that without getting most or all of the hostages killed: the British, the French, the Americans, Israelis, Germans, Aussies, maybe a couple of others. So, unless something of that nature is being lined up, those schoolgirls are headed into slavery, and the wretched pleading passivity of Mrs Obama's hashtag is just a form of moral preening.”
As Barack Obama enters the twilight of his tenure, the debate over his legacy is ­beginning, but one conclusion already seems certain. It can best be described as “Honey, I shrunk the presidency.” 
Not since Jimmy Carter was held hostage by Iran has the Oval Office seemed so inconsequential against the forces of international darkness. The mismatch is particularly striking because smallness has been Obama’s choice. 
Although he is guilty of executive overreach at home, that bully behavior only sharpens the contrast with a foreign policy that is feeble when it is not comatose. The president’s estrangement from the demands of global leadership is giving a green light to tyrants and malevolent opportunists everywhere 
His preference for navel gazing over action was on full display last week. As Russia and China menaced their neighbors and Islamist terrorists set off bombs in a half-dozen countries, Obama accepted an award from Hollywood pal Steven Spielberg for fighting genocide. Passing up a chance to give a full-throated defense of freedom and Western civilization, the president lapsed into what The New York Times called a “meditation” on the limits of his power. 
That’s far too kind. It was a white flag of surrender and more proof that Obama lacks the capacity to shoulder the responsibilities that have belonged to the Oval Office for 100 years. 
The speech sounded like that of a man who is shocked to find that evil still roams the Earth, and doesn’t have a clue what to do about it. A long paragraph of his meandering remarks, released by the White House, captures his sense of helplessness. 
“I have this remarkable title right now—president of the United States—and yet every day when I wake up, and I think about young girls in Nigeria or children caught up in the conflict in Syria—when there are times in which I want to reach out and save those kids—and having to think through what levers, what power do we have at any given moment, I think, ‘drop by drop by drop,’ that we can erode and wear down these forces that are so destructive, that we can tell a different story,” Obama said. 
If there was a course of action buried in that litany of woe, it ­escapes me. The sequence amounts to a counsel of defeat. 
Earlier, he had talked about rising anti-Semitism and the spread of sectarian and tribal conflicts. 
“We cannot eliminate evil from every heart, or hatred from every mind,” he said. “But what we can do, and what we must do, is make sure our children and their children learn their history so that they might not repeat it. We can teach our children the hazards of tribalism. We can teach our children to speak out against the casual slur. We can teach them there is no ‘them,’ there’s only ‘us.’” 
There you have it. We can teach our children warm and fuzzy things—assuming they and we are not killed by madmen first. In which case, there’s nothing we can do. 
The speech reflects how little Obama has grown in office. He initially viewed American power as a problem that needed to be checked if the world was to find lasting peace and harmony. 
By and large, he followed that bad prescription by deliberately shrinking America’s global footprint, and the result is the astonishing chaos we see around us. The vacuum is being filled not with democratic movements but by al Qaeda, China, Russia and other authoritarian regimes eager to take advantage of our retreat. 
Obama’s view of the world was wrong, and his policies are making it more dangerous and less stable. Yet he is still sounding the call to retreat, proposing new cuts to the military that would shrink it to pre-World War II levels. 
Having failed to listen or learn, Obama surveys the incomprehensible brutality and sinks into an intellectualized self-pity. Indeed, there is special poignancy to the fact that First Lady Michelle Obama joined the Twitter nation over the Nigerian schoolgirl abductions. 
The photo of her holding a sign saying “Bring Back Our Girls” is riveting, but also odd. 
Did she think to push her husband to do something? 
And you wonder whom she expects to save the girls. The United Nations? The terrorists themselves? Nigeria’s government? 
Maybe all of the above, which is to say no one, because, without the leadership of the United States, there is no one who can maintain peace and security. 
This is the result of the choice Barack Obama made. This is what the world looks like when a president laments evil ­instead of confronting it. 

UPDATE:  Welcome Fire Andrea Mitchell! readers.

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