The only rational way for any American to respond to the absurd and unprecedented bungling by President Obama and his tight circle of incompetents is sheer terror. If this was the level of care, seriousness, responsibility and professionalism employed by—oh, pick one; let’s say President Kennedy and his all-star advisors during the desperate efforts to avert nuclear war during the Cuban Missile Crisis, we might all be cockroaches today. That this particular series of inept maneuvers, verbal gaffes and brain-numbing rationalizations may not be the one that sinks the United States like Titanic Jr should not be the cause of cheering by anyone. We are stuck with this, because the news media of the United States conspired with well-meaning ideologues to place the fate of the nation in the hands of an arrogant amateur without even the ability to realize how little he knows what he is doing. Now we are awaiting what must be the most surreal Presidential speech in U.S. history—or at least we can hope it is—by a leader who has only one skill, and is once again relying on it to bail him out of a mess of his own making.
The eagerness with which our leadership appears to be leaping at Vladamir Putin’s cute ploy to raise his own prestige while providing cover for his murderous ally, Assad’s Syria, only shows how desperate and unserious a once-great nation’s government has become. If you have been lucky enough to be ignoring the news, here’s how it came about: While making unscripted remarks in his efforts to show why, as President Obama has demanded, the President of Syria must be punished with a “limited” but “decisive” missile strike lest future despots use banned chemical weapons with impunity, Secretary of State John Kerry, a career gaffe-master appointed, in an act of presidential malpractice, to the field of international diplomacy, where precision of words matter, spontaneously offered a scenario where there might be no “punishment.”
“If Assad handed over his chemical weapons within a week, the U.S. would not attack Syria, ” Kerry said, to everyone’s surprise, undercutting his boss and everything that had been said by the White House in the previous days. Putin, who is ruthless, dishonest but unlike our leader, no naif at international gamesmanship, immediately offered to broker a deal to allow such a surrender. Russia then looks like the peace-maker, and also gets to help an ally play the “let’s jerk around international inspectors” game that Saddam Hussein played so well. If you have not been paying close attention, you might even miss the clear cynicism of his “proposal”: Putin has stated that he does not believe that Syria has or has used chemical weapons. As James Taranto wrote today,
“So Putin is going to see to it that Syria destroys the weapons his own government denies it has. Good luck.”
We will need it. Yesterday Kerry also undercut the already unbelievable claim that the missile strike would do any substantive damage to Assad, other than creating provocation for the region to blow up. He said that the missile strike would be “unbelievably small.” A disgusted Jonathan Karl of ABC News’wrote: “Here’s an unusual way to instill fear into the heart of your enemy.” Slate’s Joshua Keating wrote,
“I may not have much experience with brinksmanship, but it seems to me that threatening to hit someone becomes a lot less effective when at the same time you’re telling your friends, Don’t worry, I’m not going to hit him that hard. And convincing the public that this situation is analogous to the buildup to the largest war in human history is difficult when you’re also saying that an “unbelievably small” effort will be sufficient to deal with it. Given the blows the Assad regime has already absorbed over the last two years, it’s hard to imagine statements like these changing his thinking.”
Either of Kerry’s two gaffes, in a professional presidency led by someone who had the faintest idea what he was doing and understood the need for national credibility, would guarantee a forced resignation. Not in an Obama administration, though, saddled with a Secretary of Defense who has been virtually silent in the midst of a defense crisis because, as he proved in his confirmation hearings, he makes John Kerry sound like Winston Churchill. This is a no-competence zone, run by a leader who doesn’t think competence matters, and who, with good reason, thinks the U.S. public will put up with anything he does.
Need more proof? Here it is, courtesy of usually reliable Obamaphile Dana Milbank of the Washington Post, who has been showing signs of integrity of late:
“About a year ago, the White House put Susan Rice, then the ambassador to the United Nations, on TV to read CIA talking points that turned out to be false about the attack in Benghazi, Libya.The backlash poisoned her relationship with Republicans in Congress and dashed her chances of becoming secretary of state. President Obama instead named her national security adviser, which didn’t require Senate confirmation. Now there is another crisis. Obama needs congressional support for a military strike on Syria, because a “no” vote could cripple his presidency and damage American credibility. So what do the big brains in the White House do? They put Susan Rice in front of TV cameras to read CIA talking points.
“Yep, that’ll seal the deal.”
Note that Milbank’s integrity transplant has yet to take: he can’t bear to assign accountability where it belongs. “They” didn’t send out proven liar Susan Rice: he did, the President of the United States. Barack Obama really and truly thinks the United States public is this stupid…and why shouldn’t he? He thinks he is brilliant, and he has a flat learning curve. Surely the mentally inferior public is equally uneducable. “Who’s Susan Rice? Oh, right, she’s the National Security Advisor; we can trust her. Not like that U.N. Ambassador, what’s her name, who lied about Benghazi…”
Yes, I find it insulting. I find the continued arrogant, careless, destructive leadership of President Obama insulting, but more than that, I find it sad and frightening. Taranto again:
“For Obama, the gambit affords a way that the most dramatic crisis of his presidency can end with a whimper, which as a political matter is vastly preferable to a bang. But the U.S. has been made ridiculous in the world to an even greater extent than it already was…In a mordant way, it is fitting that this crisis seemingly ended with an administration gaffe, for that is also the way it began. Obama wasn’t doing anything more than thinking out loud last year when he set a “red line” against the use of chemical weapons, but he trapped himself into making it U.S. policy, then demanded Congress and the world back it up.”
After five years, the President who promised to restore American credibility internationally has made the nation a laughingstock and the stooge of Vladamir Putin. The President who promised unprecedented transparency has, as we now know, allowed the government under his watch to secretly encroach on individual rights and has obstructed congressional efforts to investigate legitimately troubling scandals, some involving the deaths of Americans. The President who promised to unite the nation and bring the races together has presided over a catastrophic deterioration of inter-racial trust and respect. This is not about policy or politics; this an ethics crisis, and the ethical values involved are accountability, responsibility, and competence. Because the President was allowed to duck the first, he has routinely abandoned the second, and thus failed to develop the last, the most important of all in his position, and the most dangerous to lack…competence.
There is no more perilous place in the world for an arrogant amateur than the Oval Office. We put him there. Now, apparently, all we can do is to keep our fingers crossed.
Who knows…maybe his luck, and ours, won’t run out.