Unethical Quote of the Month: President Obama

“We don’t have a strategy yet.”

President Barack Obama, responding to a question regarding the military response to ISIS in Iraq and Stria.

But hey, there’s no rush!

no-we-cantI don’t enjoy beating dead horses, I don’t like using Ethics Alarms to pile on, and I try not to say I told you so. However, if you were looking for a statement that constitutes signature significance of this man’s complete lack of fitness to serve as a leader of anything more complicated or important than a Rotary Chapter, this is it. Let’s see:

  • It is an admission of inattention to duty.
  • It is a confession of incompetence.
  • Coming on the heels of studied disengagement via fundraisers and golfing, it is proof of neglect.
  • In the context of Obama’s reported focus on illegal immigration and climate change, it demonstrates warped priorities
  • It is frightening, and
  • Even if  true, this is an irresponsible thing to say in public if you want to be taken seriously as Commander-in-Chief and as a world leader.

It is depressing to read the comments of desperate Democratic Obama enablers on various websites. One said, “You don’t reveal to your enemy that you have a strategy!” No, you utter fool, you don’t reveal to your enemy what your strategy is. (Obama has done this too, in Iraq and Afghanistan.) If you believe world leaders benefit by acting as if they just walked off the street with no clue what they are doing, perhaps Obama’s next brilliant ploy should be to appear wearing a propeller beanie and speak like stroke victim. That should really fool ’em!

Finance blogger Jeffrey Carter explains why the answer is so alarming and ominous (though, I have to say, it shouldn’t be surprising):

When the world is crashing around you, that’s not an answer.   The time to answer the question with, “We don’t have a strategy yet.” was a year ago.

  • What is the US strategy for Russia?  They are invading Ukraine and putting pressure on Poland, and Germany.
  • What is the US strategy for Syria?  A civil war has raged for over a year.
  • What is the US strategy for Israel?  Hamas has built tunnels and is launching rockets daily.
  • What is the US strategy for ISIS?  A new terror organization that is well funded and organized is beheading all kinds of people in a Game of Thrones march through the desert to set up a radical muslim caliphate.  By the way, 16% of France agrees with ISIS.
  • What is the US strategy for North Korea?  Always a tense pressure point on the 43rd parallel.
  • What is the US strategy for China?  Last week, a Chinese fighter jet in a show of strength Top Gun barrel rolled a US patrol plane.  They aren’t flexing their muscles for show.  China has some serious underlying economic hurt.
  • There is a massive banking crisis brewing in Europe, what’s the US strategy?

…[W]here has Obama been?  It’s not just that he is golfing, but goes deeper than that.  It’s not political party differences either, because in a time of crisis, elections shouldn’t matter.  CEO’s and Presidents make decisions for the good of the country; not minutiae or teacher’s pets. His investors and his Board of Directors are looking for some definitive action that can bring some calm before the world goes spinning out of control.  But, his brain is vacant.  America feels listless, and also it feels like dominoes are falling that could bring us to a situation we don’t want to be in.  There are parallels to both WW1 and WW2, but every new chapter has it’s own twists and turns.  The future requires its own imaginative thinking. Great leaders have core values.  When things go nuts, they can rely on those core values. They are bedrock that help to speedily build a plan to get the ship right. …When in doubt, they can rely on the core values of that culture to seize the day, and employees internalize it to put out fires. What are Obama’s core values…?

The United States maintains multiple agencies and employs analysts and experts galore, all of whom the President has access to around the clock. The objective is to have plans for all manner of reasonably possible, predictable contingencies, of which ISIS was certainly one. Not that I would have any faith in a strategy approved by Obama, given his track record. His strategy for  dealing with Putin’s slow-motion invasion of the Ukraine, for example, was to project American weakness by hurling insults and leveling toothless sanctions. As you can see from this morning’s headlines, that wasn’t a really effective strategy.

Obama’s real answer to the question about ISIS is “attend more fundraisers.” His immediate “pivot” from vacationing to partisan fundraising puts me in mind of  SNL’s Father Guido Sarducci’s riff on the priorities of dogs: “Why are you eating so fast? Late for a nap?”

The mind boggles to consider where we would be today at other crucial points in our history—Pearl Harbor, the Great Depression, the Cuban Missile Crisis, so many others before and since, if our national leader at the time simply said “Sorry. I have no idea what we need to do here. Sorry. Maybe by next week.” This is no less than a confession to the U.S. public and the world that our nation has a leadership vacuum at its head.

Yet still–-still!—the relentlessly biased U.S. journalistic establishment is rushing to spin this debacle to protect the White House! The Washington Post’s Aaron Blake was typical, admitting that the “gaffe”—exposing complete weakness for the world to see is more than a gaffe, Aaron—“stings” (let’s keep the language as mitigating as possible, by all means), immediately shifted into an “inside baseball” analysis, comparing it to Romney’s infamous “47%” remark. That’s distortion by analogy. Romney’s comment, which was in the context of a campaign, not an international crisis, didn’t affect U.S. security or international credibility in the least, didn’t implicate Romney’s ability as a manager or leader, and endangered nobody, except his own election chances. Blake’s entire strategy here—you see, even he has a strategy!—is to frame this as a political problem only. He notes that Republican critics are concerned about Obama’s statement. Why just Republicans? Are Democrats untroubled when the President of the United States, six years into his occupancy at the white House, indicates that he doesn’t know what he’s doing there? If that’s true, what’s the matter with them?

Perhaps they accept the tortured rationalizations of Vox, full-time Obama apologist Ezra Klein’s new web venture. Yes, admits columnist Zack Beauchamp, you could conclude that this is an “absolutely devastating indictment of the administration’s approach to Iraq and Syria..” one that “pairs well with another common criticism: that the president simply has no vision for handling the major challenges in world politics, and simply lurches from crisis to crisis without any vision of how to string them together…It sounds like Obama is admitting that he has no idea what he’s doing in Iraq.”

Ah, but if you dig deeper, suggests Beauchamp, you will realize that this is just another example of Obama’s sophistication, nuance, brilliance and realism! I am not kidding:

“Viewed in context with the rest of his remarks, Obama’s point might be that there is no good strategy available for fully defeating ISIS in both Iraq and Syria — which is both consistent with his approach the crisis in those countries, in which he has primarily avoided risky escalation, and perhaps true. Throughout Obama’s addresses on ISIS, including this press conference, he’s emphasized the need for a political strategy to defeat ISIS, one that focuses not on Washington but on Baghdad and, in an ideal world, Damascus. Barring political reform in the Iraqi government, and the development of some sort of peace in Syria, it’ll be really hard to fully defeat ISIS. In a changing, complicated situation, Obama’s thinking has long seemed to be, it’s better not to prematurely commit to a specific problem that might not fit the changing situation.

You can’t have a strategy for what can’t be done, in other words.”

Or, in other words, “It’s hopeless,” “I’m out of ideas,” “We’re doomed,” “Can’t get there from here,” “Give it up,” and “No We Can’t.”

I shouldn’t have to write this, but that’s not leadership. A leader who thinks that way in times of crisis has an obligation to resign.


Sources: Points and Figures, Washington Post, Vox

Graphic: Buzzfeed



35 thoughts on “Unethical Quote of the Month: President Obama

  1. “Hey, Lieutenant! 2nd squad just got ambushed! Their down 7 guys and the remaining 2 are heavily suppressed. 1st and 3rd Squads are moving to support! What do you want after that??”

    “WAIT WHAT??? Stop their movement, I don’t have a plan yet!”

    “WHAT??? Can we at least start calling for heavier assets?!”


      • In the immortal words of Homer Simpson, “just because I don’t care doesn’t mean I don’t understand”.

        This sort of decline is not saddening as long as you don’t have a dog in the fight and as long as it hasn’t yet reached a breaking point where it affects others more broadly. That may come, but for now all is well for everyone not within reach.

  2. “I don’t like using Ethics Alarms to pile on.”

    No need to apologize. So much has fallen on top of Obama now that you know what color he is? Flat black.

  3. “Viewed in context with the rest of his remarks, Obama’s point might be that there is no good strategy available for fully defeating ISIS in both Iraq and Syria “

    The true phraseology of that should be: “Obama’s point is that there is no easy strategy available for fully defeating ISIS”. Ok. It would have been tons easier 8 months ago if we’d bombed the piss out of them as they poured across the Syrian-Iraqi border, while a supported Iraqi army could have been putting pro-civilization holes in the hearts and minds of the ISIS-ites (ISISians?). It would have been tons easier before that if we showed some assertiveness and political savvy and maintained a strong residual force in country.

    But, here we sit with this crisis among all the others.

    How quickly the world unravels when good people with the force to do good take a break.

    “It’s not political party differences either, because in a time of crisis, elections shouldn’t matter.”

    I don’t like Jeff Carter’s sentence here…

    When it boils down to it, Obama was elected, among other things, on a platform of reducing America’s involvement in the world, decreasing the belief that we have an exceptional system that is better for anyone involved, allowing local governments (even crappier one’s) to take more lead, equating us as just another country. That platform comes from somewhere and was supported by someone. That someone IS the Democrat Party. Sorry, this is politics and Obama is the Reductio ad Absurdum of the past 50 years of Leftist ideology. Trying to play the “non-partisan” game at this point in evaluating things is folly and only will perpetuate the problem.

  4. Until I saw this I was of the idea that impeachment would be a terrible idea… but at some point even Biden on the driving seat *has* to be better than this.

  5. If we had a 10 year old in the office the rationalizations from Obama supporters would be more understandable. Except after six years a 10 year old would be a lot smarter than the 4 year old we elected.

  6. Aaron Blake’s remarks inadvertently touched the heart of the problem. He, like Obama, see everything in the context of a “political problem”… which, by extension, requires only a political solution. For Obama, that means making a sophomoric speech. He doesn’t seem to realize (or care) that everytime he does this, America’s enemies laugh and are further emboldened. Or that America’s allies draw fearfully away from America’s alliance. Obama came to power specifically to establish a permanent leftist regime over America and to degrade our sovereignty into a globalist “community” of leftist (and failed) nations. What vision he has is based on utterly false premises and, as a consequence, is leading the world into another major conflict.

  7. What galls me (once again) is the tone deafness of this president. Obama is supposed to be a great orator but he doesn’t seem to notice or care about the impression his words give. Why, or why, couldn’t Obama have just used the classic “we are still weighing our strategic options” instead of “we don’t have a strategy, yet?” His supporters at Vox argue as if Obama said the former, but Obama said the latter.

    Does a simple change in wording make a difference? Hell yes. “We are still weighing all our strategic options” implies that the matter is being taken seriously, and is important enough not to rush into without deep consideration and consultation with experts. “We don’t have a strategy, yet” implies that the matter isn’t important and when Obama comes up with a strategy it will likely be a spur of the moment decision.

    And Josh Earnest should darn well learn what spin is. Spin is not flat out lying. Spin is not pointing off in the distance and shouting “look squirrel.” Etymologically spin in politics does not come from the concept of making people dizzy. Spin is about how things (usually facts) are presented and, much like topspin on a tennis ball, spin limits those receiving your facts to reacting in ways you want them to.

    Sorry, for ranting (and I could go on for hours) but I just get so tired of bad spin combined with such a ‘great speaker’ of a president.

  8. Just read an article in which John Kerry explains that Syria is a real threat to the United States and I thought to myself “Okay…great…we are going to get some things moving here”. Then I looked at the date of the article. It was dated September 2013.

  9. Perhaps things might have gone better for him if he had simply said.

    ” The world is a messy place. We have people in this world that have values that are horribly different than our own. Yet our values are such that no matter how much we disagree politically, religiously, and economically we all agree that everyone should be able to express that belief and live their lives without fear of violence. We also believe that everyone should be able to live in a stable world free of violence, corruption, vengeance and retribution based in whole or in part on their differing creed, nationality, religion or ethnic background.

    No one in his right mind is an advocate of war. Nonetheless, there are times when defending something far bigger than any individual, such as the desire of all people around the world to live without fear of those who wish to terrorize them, requires the intervention of something far more powerful than any terrorist or terrorist organization to ensure the greatest number of people live a peaceful existence for the longest possible time.

    In the past we have sent what may have been ambiguous messages to such adversaries. We hoped that they would embrace diplomatic solutions to address any grievance felt by them. Our goal has always been to find a peaceful resolution to conflicts around the globe. Yes, we have made demands. However those demands were not to benefit us but to benefit the citizens of those countries. In most cases we have been successful in avoiding the carnage of military action. However, despite our best efforts not always. We attempt to avoid military intervention at all costs and use it only when a direct threat exists to the people of the United States or our allies.

    The strategic goal of the United States is to prevent any and all threats to our ideals, allies and world neighbors from metastasizing into a larger global conflict that will inflict more carnage, death and destruction on the people of the world. Those who plan to execute terror upon the world for the purpose obtaining submission of the peoples of the world because it believes that everyone must abide by their rules and laws are a threat to all humanity that yearns to be free to live as they choose. It is those people who want others to submit unto them have forced our hand to adopt a zero tolerance policy toward their aims.

    It is now apparent to anyone that there are those in the world who will accept no diplomatic solutions only a complete submission to their ideals.

    Effective immediately, our negotiating position with those elements throughout the world will change. We will no longer entertain any demands placed upon us or our allies. Any harm that comes to any community of persons will result in the full capabilities of the U.S. military being used to exterminate the threat. We can no longer simply ameliorate the discomfort of their animus to us by pursuing the least harmful strategy. Just like a cancer that can only be completely excised by destroying the cancer and the surrounding healthy tissue, we must accept that the cure is not that which causes the offense, it is the malignancy that demanded a cure that did.

    While we realize that such action will result in extensive collateral damage to our strike areas in the short term, that collateral damage will be minimal compared to the collateral damage inflicted on the people of those regions by those that wish to enslave them over the longer term. We will no longer attempt to selectively engage a target that disappears under the cloak of the communities which allow them to freely operate. We can only assume that those communities that are not actively defending themselves against these tyrants are sympathetic to them and embrace their ideology.

    Be it known that any act of terror perpetrated against the U.S., our allies, or other sovereign nation, whether be from a lone individual or group of individuals aligned with a State or extremist group will result in the complete obliteration of a population center known to harbor such extremists. Each act of terror will be met with a unique strike on a unique population center. This is the only warning that will be given. There will be no further warnings.

    To ensure that this message is heeded by our adversaries, I give them 24 hours to release all hostages that may have. Otherwise, we will demonstrate our commitment to eradicating the terrorists that plague the good people of the world.

    • Excellent, Chris. I thought things might have gone better if he said this:

      Don’t put the cart before the horse
      We have no strategy so far
      But let me be clear
      And as always sincere
      My game is way above par

    • I’d prefer of his terminology was as succinct as “ISIS is abosolutley savage and we are analyzing the best method of killing all of them”

      I think that is the better summary of what you said.

      • Tex: I chose not to use any particular group as that is part of the problem as I see it. For the last 13 years we have been told the threat has been Al Qaeda. Now it is ISIS. Tomorrow it will be another organization that is executing people in the name of their doctrine. We must make no distinction between any group seeking to impose its dogma on another by force and very barbaric means.

        Many will take issue with what I said and see it as posturing for a fight while others see it as the only solution. My main point is that our leadership is expected to state unequivocally our position, and not parse words in an attempt to appease domestic or international opinion. He could have said the exact opposite and I and others might strongly disagree with him. That would have been better than what he said yesterday which amounted to nothing but ethereal rhetoric.

        I just want him to take a stand and follow through on that stand whether I, Valerie Jarrett, or someone else likes it or not. A principled decision is by definition not affected by politics. That is what I want from a leader. What I cannot tolerate is an obfuscating vacillator in chief. He was hired to do a job and I expect it to be done. No one said it decision making would be easy just that decisions need to be made to ensure the domestic tranquility of our nation. Our nation is hardly tranquil despite Josh Earnest’s proclamations.

        Vacillation and/or appeasement is the surest way to guarantee future conflict, more innocents being slaughtered and enslaved by the doctrine of these power hungry self appointed arbiters of their godly truth. The only thing we should be telegraphing is that for which we will not tolerate. Our adversaries and their sympathizers must believe that acts of terrorism will be met with swift and overwhelming retribution of such magnitude that their entire community of thought faces extinction.

  10. Can you put together a proper strategy in eight weeks? You need to know something about your opponents, and that takes intel. The planning for the invasion of Iraq took years, and it was still pretty screwed up. Bush made a lot of mistakes — like disbanding the Iraqi army, and kicking all Ba’athists out of their leadership positions — that we are still paying for today.

    Is there anyone out there who was a war planner?

    • Really not the issue, but
      1) Sure. You can put together an effective strategy in 24 hours.
      2) The government should have been planning a strategy for a year, at least.
      3) Even if you don’t have a plan, or a good one, you don’t announce that to the world and those you are leading and who must trust and depend on you. Leadership 101.

      • Jack, I’m not giving Obama a pass for that one. It was amazingly stupid, but I don’t automatically equate simple stupidity with unethical behavior. You tend to over-do that.

        A year ago, ISIS didn’t exist. We have to know their capabilities, their objectives, and their weaknesses before you can assemble an effective response. I just learned on one of the news shows that a third of ISIS’s commanders are former officers in Saddam’s army. This means that it is another product of Bush’s incompetence (a lot of people questioned the decision to disband the Iraqi army and disenfranchise all Ba’athists) and that their tactics are likely to be conventional.

        You can’t even put a competent business plan together in 24 hours, Jack! You have to know your market, and know your competitors, and that takes study. I asked the question because I honestly don’t know what goes into military planning, and I was hoping that someone with some experience in doing so could inform me.

        • Simple stupidity on a national stage is, in fact, incompetence, and a national leader who is that incompetent is, in fact, unethical. It is unethical to accept the responsibility for millions of lives without a clue what you are doing. If this was the first such example from Mr. Obama, I guarantee you I would have allowed it to pass. It is, rather, part of an established pattern.

  11. Cathi
    One of the significant challenges of any leader whose goal is to rout a global threat is to eliminate the government that supports, or turns a blind eye to, the acts of evil by an aggressor, while simultaneously avoiding both a power vacuum and the impression that the liberating force is an occupying force.

    A second consideration is that western rules of engagement have shifted from offensive engagement to defensive engagement (read containment not victory). This began during the police action in Korea. Our soldiers are trained to fight but only if attacked. This allows guerrilla insurgents to launch quick strike attacks and retreat anonymously into the civilian population.

    Moreover, we as a people abhor war and our opponents know that images of children and innocent bystanders being killed and maimed will cause us to second guess the efficacy of a military action. Our opponents strategically capitalize on what they consider a weakness. Our news cycle always capture the damage we do, but it is rare that we see the barbarity of the enemy because those images are withheld. First hand accounts without the blood soaked imagery cannot compete with the easily obtained images of crying women and babies that are caught in the middle of the conflict. Such images provoke a visceral reaction within us all designed to make us think that our actions cannot be worth the effort. They make us look like the barbarians relative to them because thy allow us to see only one side.

    Remember the images of those jumping from 30 stories up in the World Trade Center on 9-11 and how our reaction to them caused virtually everyone to rally behind a president that just 10 months earlier was embroiled in a bitter court fight over the election in Florida. Bush II was seen as an illegitimate president by half the voters. Nonetheless, we were all behind a plan to eliminate those that perpetrated the offense against us. As soon as those pictures were replaced with images of homes and businesses burning from the bombs dropped during the Shock and Awe” campaign many began to have second thoughts.

    Wars since Viet Nam drag on because we are fighting an unconventional foe. Not everyone that seeks to kill our soldiers wears a uniform. Children were given hand grenades to detonate among Americans by the Viet Cong. It is much worse today. Both children and adult men and women dressed in civilian clothes must be viewed as potential fighters. We need to come to grips with these changes if we ever expect to prevail.

    In my view we must overcome our aversion to the atrocities of war, understand that our enemy may use fighters as young as they are old enough to carry a bomb or weapon into our midst. We must only commit to war when we have real desire for total elimination of the threat. We must realize that like an infection, without a thorough cleansing the infection will rear its head much worse than it did before.

    The choice is ours to make. We can continue to try to contain the barbarism to the middle east allowing them to fight among themselves with our help from time to time at an increasing cost in terms of soldiers and money or do we clean up that Love Canal once and for all and allow those people to live in relative peace even if it means keeping an occupying force in place to ensure tranquility. We must keep in mind that containment does not ensure that those that wish us harm are no longer a threat to our homeland. The only way to nearly eliminate the threat to national security is to raise the stakes so high for an aggressor that they will fear swift and sure retaliation by an overwhelming force. The proof is that we do not occupy Germany or Japan but our presence in Korea has been in place since 1953.

    The only blame that I will level on our leaders is when they fail to fully apprise us of the threat and simply acquiesce to those that are willing to permit our unconditional surrender to our foes. Much of the blame for a leaders inaction falls squarely on our own shoulders when we send a signal to our enemy that we no longer support the idea of vanquishing the evil that they wish to impose upon us all.

    • That was a damned good analysis, Chris! It’s of long term regret on my part that Americans, other than Vietnam veterans, didn’t learn the lesson of how a non-western enemy will have no scruples about employing brainwashed women and children as soldiers, terrorists and suicide bombers. Had we invaded Japan in 1945, we would have seen it there, too. Americans just have to wrap their minds around the fact that war is a bloody mess and that, in most places on Earth and throughout the bulk of Man’s history, human life has been treated as a cheap commodity. That’s because barbarism and decadency- not true civilization- have been the staples of that history. However, the only way to keep those foul hands off our own families is to break those who would impose themselves on us. And there will always be those. It doesn’t end until after Judgement Day.

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