The mad dash for the edge of the cliff that has characterized the actions of President Obama and the Left during the past ninety days has been breathtaking. It is becoming difficult to estimate when and where this administration has done the greatest harm, but the question is no longer if they are headed off the cliff but where they (and we) will land.
As Kim has noted below, the Obama flip flop on prosecution of Bush administration officials over rendition policy was a cravenly political act that exposed this president as weak and frighteningly vulnerable to the criticism of his most unhinged constituency ( a crowd that has given new meaning to Santayana’s definition of the term fanatic). It also sent the clear message that this administration will not protect the power of the Executive, a principle jealously protected by Presidents Clinton and Bush. Much more disconcerting though is the interpretation of these actions by our nation’s enemies. As this President simultaneously talks down his own country while abroad and undermines the power of his Office upon returning home surely our enemies are taking the measure of him and liking what they see.
Is anyone else getting weary of President Obama’s naked plea for the approval of foreigners? I’ll leave it to others to examine the underlying motivation for this behavior (is it angst?) but it must be said that it isn’t doing us any good in the long haul. That’s why I miss Nixon. In times like this I want a good kitchen debate, not an apologia. To that end, Jeffrey Lord has written a great piece on Nixon’s trip to the USSR fifty years ago when he engaged in the great Kitchen Debate with Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev (read the whole thing). This was the stuff of real foreign policy drama and debate, where the consequences were far more serious than Obama’s milquetoast adventures with the G20 and pretenders like Hugo Chavez and Daniel Ortega.
…. the picture of a no-nonsense Nixon jabbing his own finger right back at Khrushchev was captured by an AP photographer. The Russians, no fools, embargoed the photos and an inventive Safire smuggled the AP photographer’s negative out of the Soviet Union — in his socks. It became one of the most famous photos of the day.
The Nixon-Khrushchev “kitchen debate” was an iconic moment in the history of the Cold War.
…if you are an American leader, it is a mistake of magnitudes to let tyrants make a fool of you period, whether in private but especially in public. The photo of a grinning Obama yukking it up with Hugo Chavez, unchallenging as he accepts a book glorifying socialism, is surely being closely studied by less than scrupulous men from Tehran to Afghanistan, from Beijing to Moscow to Havana.
In the context of today’s decision to open the door for an investigation of American tactics in the War on Terror it is instructive to look back on how other presidents have handled themselves while abroad. People that wish this country no good are watching carefully and President Obama is sending all the wrong signals.