Pres. Barak Hussein Obama has given new meaning to that epithet “imperial presidency”. It was slung at Pres. Richard Nixon not only for his extravagant “palace guard” – some in kitschy uniforms – but his more serious unconstitutional overreach.
But if imperial in his style, Mr. Obama reigns; he does not rule.
Whether domestic or foreign policy, Mr. Obama abdicates to Congressional or bureaucratic control then spins the often resulting muddle as something for which he is not responsible. It results, for example, in outgoing Sec. of Defense Robert Gates and Chairman Admiral Michael Mullen pontificating far above their pay grade, to be contradicted almost instantaneously by events or Mr. Obama himself. The President’s hands-on applies only to maintaining his leftwing political base, whether Wisconsin unionists or Washington lobbies, reinforcing his South Side Chicago-Hyde Park 1960s leftwing agenda and his search for reelection campaign dollars.
Given the presidency’s dual role as chief of state as well as chief executor, celebration of a multitude of ceremonies is necessary and fitting – all the more in times of peril when the nation’s spirit needs uplift. But Mr. Obama’s sports addiction, his gliterrati extravaganzas, his causal acknowledgement of our closest allies’ tragedies, and his wife’s Marie-Antoinette progressions are increasingly bizarre. Importing a Chicago Daley mob family member, supposedly as a pragmatic chief of staff, so far has not injected restraint much less austerity.
This standard operating procedure is reinforced by Mr. Obama’s denigration of historic American accomplishments, often on foreign soil. Symptomatically, in the one international arena where he has sought leadership, relations with the Muslim world, there’s almost total disaster. Having made what he, if not most scholars, considered two seminal speeches offering renewed friendship with Islam, American interests are now in jeopardy in both locales. Turkey, site of his first lecture, once a stalwart NATO ally, defies the West’s policies on the Iranian nuclear weapons issue, the greatest threat now facing the alliance. His Cairo speech, seemingly falling on deaf ears, was followed by his bemused Administration fostering regime change but adding little to its still awaited outcome.
Of course Pres. Obama did not create these long simmering crises. But he contributes to them through his Administration’s lack of faith in American power, hard and soft. Favoring multilateralism to American leadership, his UN representative, Amb. Susan Rice, preaches that gospel but neglects reform of the organization’s abysmal corruption and inadequacy for which taxpayers pick up too much of the tab. Only when Muammar Qadaffi began slaughtering his own people did Washington join to redress the charade of Libya’s prominence on the UN Human Rights Council.
In this world of rampant behaviorism and relativism, Aristotle may not dominate as he once did. And his concept that nature abhors a vacuum [horror vacui in Latin] may be questioned with such new mysteries as black holes in outer space. But we are getting its proof in what happens geopolitically when the world’s paramount power chooses not to lead. Or worse still, when Mr. Obama trumpets policy without following through. Minor players with fewer resources, physical and intellectual, take the field exacerbating regional conflicts in an increasingly intertwined world.
Nowhere has that been more apparent than Washington’s approach to the Egyptian regime’s collapse, the Bahrain religious conflict and now the Libyan civil war with their attendant growing threat to world energy supplies.
Like a sick dog to its vomit, Washington returns again and again to the Israel-Palestine issue as the magic bullet to cure Mideast troubles. It’s the one international issue where the President enthusiastically commits his prestige. But having chosen Israeli settlements in areas won in the 1967 war as fundamental – it was subsidiary until he came along – Mr. Obama jeopardizes Israel’s basic security further postponing any agreement. The absurdity of his position is self evident: in a “two-state solution”, he ignores Israel’s almost 2-million Arabs but infers a Palestinian state must be “judenrein”.
Elsewhere lack of U.S. leadership – even withholding rhetorical support for Iran’s opposition — has helped extend Tehran leadership’s religious fanatic and kleptocratic tentacles across the Fertile Crescent. The Persian Mullahs have managed to play all sides in “the Arab spring”. Not only does Tehran use Shia Syrian and Lebanese co-sectarians, but it sponsors Sunni Palestinian terrorism including Hamas, offspring of Egypt’s Moslem Brotherhood. [The latest unspeakably barbaric murder of an Israeli family eclipsed by the Japanese catastrophe was apparently Tehran-sponsored.] Iran may well profit from whatever comes of Mr. Obama’s belated moves to oust Qadaffi.
The arguments against American intervention in Libya were strong. Though Washington’s choice was to disremember his murder of Americans, in a Berlin discothèque in 1986 and PanAmerican 103 at Lockerbie in 1988, it is not forgotten in a region where mayhem and revenge are ever present. Ultimately, Mr. Obama could no more ignore Tripoli [ah! the ghosts of Thomas Jefferson and his Marines!] than rising oil prices spurred by Obama Administration counterproductive domestic energy policies could fail to cripple American recovery.
Thus Pres. Obama and the U.S. have been sucked into an undelineated vacuum, in part of his own making.