Epitaphs for the Obama presidency (3)
See also: Epitaphs for the Obama presidency (1),
American voters don’t care much about foreign policy … until they do. And President Barack Obama has painted himself (and our national security) into a corner. The estimable Roger Kimball clearly sees where this is leading:
In a melancholy passage of the Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle observes that we can follow certain courses of action which will put us in situations where there is no right response. Whatever we do, it will be wrong, or at least unhappy.
Confronted with the West’s habitual acquiescence in the face of Russian (and not only Russian) swagger and belligerence, Aristotle would no doubt have said, “See what I mean,” or words to that effect.
Skillful diplomacy might have headed off the crisis in Crimea. But we did not field skillful diplomats. We sent John Kerry, backed up by Barack Obama, Susan Rice, and Joe Biden. As in 1854, “someone had blundered.” Tennyson recorded the result. Today, the “reset button” turns out to have been disconnected at the source. Obama really did push it. Comrade Putin paid it no heed. He had taken the measure of the man long ago.
The odd thing about national security issues in American politics is that only a small percentage of voters – those who pay attention – really care about it. Most people blissfully assume there is nobody who can challenge the United States, and besides, if we just leave people alone, they won’t bother us. For a while. (Ask Jimmy Carter about that.)
As long as reality doesn’t intrude, Barack Obama’s focus on being a domestic policy president works out, more or less. His media allies can portray Republicans and conservatives as racist and omit form the news any mention of issues that would be embarrassing. But people like Vlad Putin don’t care what the American media do or say. They take the measure of Obama and then they act. And the results can get very ugly, so ugly that low information voters begin to notice.
We are at the cusp of a whole lotta noticing going on.
What exactly are you going to do about that, Mr. President? (UPDATE: Besides, I mean, the pretend sanctions against 11 individuals that caused such hilarity among the Russians yesterday?) For five years, you’ve been jetting around the world at vast expense to apologize for America. You apologized to the Muslims. You apologized to Hugo Chavez. You bowed deeply to the Saudi despot. You cancelled the promised missile defense programs for Poland and the Czech Republic, thereby both selling out important allies and waving the flag of weakness to the country that, come to think of it, might just be American’s “number one geopolitical foe,” as someone once said.
It’s all starting to unravel, isn’t it? The preposterous and hideously expensive socialized medicine program you shoved down the throats of the American people with no Republican support and against the will of a majority of the people: Nancy Pelosi said we had to pass it to find out what’s in it. Well, you bribed, cajoled, and threatened to get it passed, and now the American people are indeed finding out what’s in it. “If you like your health care plan, you can keep your health care plan, period.” You said that over and over and over. You knew it wasn’t true. But you decided to lie to the American people in order to set about “fundamentally transforming the United States of America.” That’s what you promised to do in 2008. And boy have you made good on that promise.
Kimball sees where this is leading:
Meanwhile, those very American people you, like Mencken, hold in such contempt: they are waking up. They do not like what you are doing to this country. Which is why your approval rating is in the 30s. That’s Bush territory. And all signs are that the impending direction is south. It may seem extreme now, in March 2014. But just wait. I reckon it won’t be long before you’re faced with one of those unhappy dilemmas I mentioned at the outset. Abdication or resignation may be one option. The other begins with “i.” But that’s something that no establishment Republican wants to broach. Not yet, anyway. Not yet.
The next two and a half years are going to be perilous and very interesting (in the purportedly Chinese sense of the term).