Monday, May 24, 2010

Bad Character, Bad Policy

In his National Review (11/23/2009) tribute to Charles Krauthammer, Jay Nordlinger wrote,

...he has been a brilliant critic of President Obama: a persistent, fearless, profound critic of Obama. Indeed, many conservatives, and some liberals as well, consider him the critic-in-chief.

On policy, this is true. Krauthammer has a unique ability to recognize the significant aspects and far reaching ramifications of poor policy decisions. (And good ones too, but this is Obama we're talking about). Krauthammer's critiques of those decisions are consistently forceful and elegant. (an example below).

For exposing the emptiness of Obama's character - his ethical, spiritual, and indeed, intellectual deficiencies - there's Mark Steyn.

Steyn's latest thrashing of Obama for his recent remarks about murdered WSJ reporter Daniel Pearl is a good illustration. Steyn hits Obama on multiple fronts - his rhetorical ineffectiveness, his moral passivity, his lack of imagination and his inability to comprehend the salient issue at hand.

Barack Obama’s remarkable powers of oratory are well known: In support of Chicago’s Olympic bid, he flew into Copenhagen to give a heartwarming speech about himself, and they gave the games to Rio. He flew into Boston to support Martha Coakley’s bid for the U.S. Senate, and Massachusetts voters gave Ted Kennedy’s seat to a Republican. In the first year of his presidency, he gave a gazillion speeches on health-care “reform” and drove support for his proposals to basement level, leaving Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid to ram it down the throats of the American people through sheer parliamentary muscle.

Like a lot of guys who’ve been told they’re brilliant one time too often, President Obama gets a little lazy, and doesn’t always choose his words with care. And so it was that he came to say a few words about Daniel Pearl, upon signing the “Daniel Pearl Press Freedom Act.”

Pearl was decapitated on video by jihadist Muslims in Karachi on Feb. 1, 2002. That’s how I’d put it.

This is what the president of the United States said: “Obviously, the loss of Daniel Pearl was one of those moments that captured the world’s imagination because it reminded us of how valuable a free press is.”

Now Obama’s off the prompter, when his silver-tongued rhetoric invariably turns to sludge. But he’s talking about a dead man here, a guy murdered in public for all the world to see. Furthermore, the deceased’s family is standing all around him. And, even for a busy president, it’s the work of moments to come up with a sentence that would be respectful, moving, and true. Indeed, for Obama, it’s the work of seconds, because he has a taxpayer-funded staff sitting around all day with nothing to do but provide him with that sentence.

Instead, he delivered the one above. Which, in its clumsiness and insipidness, is most revealing. First of all, note the passivity: “The loss of Daniel Pearl.” He wasn’t “lost.” He was kidnapped and beheaded. He was murdered on a snuff video. He was specifically targeted, seized as a trophy, a high-value scalp. And the circumstances of his “loss” merit some vigor in the prose. Yet Obama can muster none.

There's much more along these lines from Steyn including his scorn for Obama's claim that Pearl's death "captured the world's imagination." This "one-worldism" fantasy of Obama's took a hit as countless jihadists celebrated Pearl's death. And Steyn derides Obama's misconstrual of "press freedom" as the key, much less sole, issue at stake. Talking up the legislation was the lesser of Obama's tasks. To honor Pearl's memory, the circumstances and true reason for his death needed elucidation. Pearl was murdered for who he was, not because of his occupation as a journalist. This was made clear by Pearl's murderer, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who, as quoted by Steyn, boasted, “I decapitated with my blessed right hand the head of the American Jew Daniel Pearl, in the city of Karachi.” This is the same KSM, by the way, who has leftists wringing their hands over his waterboarding.

Obama's egregious character flaws could be overlooked if they did not contribute to his egregious policy failures. Predictably, they do. Steyn writes,

This week’s pictures of the leaders of Brazil and Turkey clasping hands with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad are also monuments to American passivity.
That photo was also noted in Krauthammer's analysis of Obama's latest diplomatic fiasco with Iran.

The real news is that already notorious photo: the president of Brazil, our largest ally in Latin America, and the prime minister of Turkey, for more than half a century the Muslim anchor of NATO, raising hands together with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the most virulently anti-American leader in the world.

That picture — a defiant, triumphant “take that” to Uncle Sam — is a crushing verdict on the Obama foreign policy. It demonstrates how rising powers, traditional American allies, having watched this administration in action, have decided that there’s no cost to lining up with America’s enemies and no profit in lining up with a U.S. president given to apologies and appeasement.
(My emphasis).

They’ve watched President Obama’s humiliating attempts to appease Iran, as every rejected overture is met with abjectly renewed U.S. negotiating offers. American acquiescence reached such a point that the president was late, hesitant, and flaccid in expressing even rhetorical support for democracy demonstrators who were being brutally suppressed and whose call for regime change offered the potential for the most significant U.S. strategic advance in the region in 30 years.

In his interview on NRO's "Uncommon Knowledge" (see my link - May 15) Fouad Ajami asserts that Obama's entire Iran policy is based on a faulty assumption - that the regime was seeking an accomodation with the U.S. and was frustrated to that end only by President Bush's cowboy diplomacy. Ajami believes that Iran never had an interest in such an accomodation. It knew that it could survive any sanctions by turning to a nations like Japan, Italy, China, Russia, Venezuela and others, including now, Brazil and Turkey. The regime sees a far greater advantage in becoming a nuclear power and demonizing (literally) the U.S. as the Great Satan with its diametrically opposed ideology, than engaging it as a diplomatic and trading partner.

Krauthammer, continuing –

They’ve watched America acquiesce to Russia’s reexerting sway over Eastern Europe, over Ukraine (pressured last month into extending for 25 years Russia’s lease of the Black Sea naval base at Sevastopol), and over Georgia (Russia’s de facto annexation of Abkhazia and South Ossetia is no longer an issue under the Obama “reset” policy).

They’ve observed the administration’s gratuitous slap at Britain over the Falklands, its contemptuous treatment of Israel, its undercutting of the Czech Republic and Poland, and its indifference to Lebanon and Georgia. And in Latin America, they see more than mere passivity from the U.S. as Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez organizes his anti-American “Bolivarian” coalition while deepening military and commercial ties with Iran and Russia. They saw active U.S. support in Honduras for a pro-Chávez would-be dictator seeking unconstitutional powers in defiance of the democratic institutions of that country.

This is not just an America in decline. This is an America in retreat — accepting, ratifying, and declaring its decline, and inviting rising powers to fill the vacuum.

Not mentioned in Krauthammer's column was the sinking of a South Korean vessel by North Korean torpedoes - an act of war that will surely go unpunished. Another act of war - Iran's support of the forces fighting the U.S. in Iraq and Afghanistan - continues to be overlooked. On a Fox News panel, Krauthammer did mention the North Korean attack and he made the point that it was a direct consequence of an evil regime obtaining nuclear weapons. Expect Iran to make similar provocations in the powder keg of the Middle East once it goes nuclear. And expect all rogue states to continue to test the limits of the seemingly limitless stores of submissiveness of this administration.



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