April 22, 2009

Obama the softy

Politico today has an article about whether the GOP can paint Obama as being an apologist. The story misses the point on two important counts. (1) Obama is not an apologist for anything he's done or doing - he's apologizing for the perceived sins of others. As a result, his apology amounts to not contrition but rather finger-pointing. (2) The GOP needs to point out that he is soft of foreign relations which is dangerous for America and for Americans.

Obama the apologist?

President Obama has spent a great deal of time apologizing for the actions of the Bush administration. He has not, nor will he not apologize for any mistakes he has made or will make. Why not? It would detract from his domestic aura as "The One". He cannot, in the eyes of the campaign machine, be perceived to be less than messianic because once that glimmer wears off, there's a whole lot of nothing underneath.

And why is Politico using the word "paint" in it's title? That in itself portrays the GOP in a bad light. It's as if the GOP is trying to make something out of nothing by painting a picture that is different from reality. Further, the only purpose in pointing out any issues are implied to be politically motivated and not real concerns with the issues.

Republicans are hoping they have finally found the secret to taking on President Barack Obama — by portraying him as overly apologetic about U.S. misdeeds and naive about engaging unfriendly regimes abroad.

But tagging Obama as a “Jimmy Carter Democrat” on foreign affairs and national security may prove a difficult critique to make stick - at least for the moment.

That is because Obama and his aides have sought to inoculate themselves against the charge with a simple defense: This is what the public voted for in November. The White House says Obama made clear that his foreign policy approach called for engagement and admitting mistakes where warranted and that voters embraced that sharp break with eight years of the Bush administration.
That Obama has made a break is clear. That the GOP disagrees is clear. Why not title the article "GOP questions Obama's stance on foreign relations?" Is that not a more neutral title?

There's apparently no article questioning whether Obama is right to take the new approach. There's no question of whether the denigrating of any previous administration diminishes the stature of the United States in the eyes of the world. When the starting point of the analysis comes from the position that Bush was terrible and he hurt the US image internationally, there's no room left to contemplate the real issue - is running down your own country not counter-productive? Is what the President is doing tantamount to mere finger-pointing and meant for domestic, liberal audience consumption?

When th President says 'we have done wrong in the past' he is setting himself apart from the blame, on a subliminal level. He positions himself as being The One here to fix it. He is aggrandizing himself and his own image at the expense of the image of the nation - domestically and internationally. That is a profound shame.

Obama the weak.

From a GOP perspective though, there's no real value in "painting" Obama as an apologist. The real opportunity is to point out how President Obama is soft on foreign threats. From a gut-level reaction perspective, an apologist doesn't have a visceral reaction. To even mention that smacks of an attempt to direct Republican criticism in a direction that is easily defended by Democrats.

The obvious comeback is that the apologies were necessary and if the GOP can't admit past mistakes they are not ready to govern. The are self-righteous and blind. The irony is laughable. The problem is that they would get away with it.

Which brings us back to the real opportunity. Obama's softness on foreign relations represents a real threat to America as a whole, and to American citizens individually. That is a gut-level argument that needs to be made.

On the North Korean missile test, he was meek. He condemned it and got a non-binding UN statement condemning it. You think that ill stop Jong Il from trying to test another? Perhaps one that could reach California? Nope.

On Venezuela, he accepted a gift from an election thief. Birds of a feather, some might say. The message however was clear - I'll talk to Chavez even though he has said not only rabidly anti-Bush things, but rabidly anti-American things. It's okay to knock my country (just don't knock me). Venezuela will be emboldened in South America no doubt by the different tenor the perceive from the President.

On Iran he has really painted himself into a corner. Even Politico got this one right.

On Iran, though, the administration’s preference for engagement will have to produce gains relatively quickly. Having declared it unacceptable for Iran to achieve a nuclear weapons capability, Obama will face increasing pressure as months pass to show that engagement with Tehran can actually succeed in restraining its nuclear activities.

White House officials have been very careful not to remove options such as harsh sanctions or even military action from the table, which gives Obama room to switch course if outreach to Iran proves fruitless.

The high-wire act that Obama is now embarked upon with the Iranians became even more evident Monday when Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad delivered an inflammatory speech at a U.N. conference on racism in Geneva that attacked the United States and Israel, prompting a walkout by many delegates. The U.S. was boycotting the conference already, but the episode pointed up the danger the U.S. faces of a blowup as it proceeds with its outreach to Tehran.
On Cuba, Politico points out the supposed toughness from President Obama;

Obama also has been careful to inject caution into the discussion of what is possible by reaching out to longtime foes. In the case of Cuba, he responded to an offer from Raul Castro of broad talks with the United States by laying out a series of demanding steps for Cuba to take, including the release of political prisoners and adoption of democratic reforms. Obama acknowledged that the U.S. policy toward Cuba “hasn’t worked,” but he played down the possibility of quick improvement in relations.
Wasn't there a campaign promise to meet unconditionally? Is he breaking a campaign promise? It seems that way. No mention though. However, it may be because he's already eased restrictions to start the dialogue going. In other words, being proactively weak.

On waterboarding;

Administration officials insist that the decision to release memos describing the use of waterboarding and other harsh techniques against Al Qaeda prisoners does not diminish U.S. safety, especially since Obama has committed not to use the techniques in the future. The decision to outlaw the techniques may make the U.S. safer by removing a major complaint that Muslims have about the U.S., officials argued.

But former CIA Director Gen. Michael Hayden and others have argued that revealing details of the interrogations reveals to terrorists how far the U.S. is willing to go during questioning, which he said could diminish intelligence information obtained from interrogations and make it harder to detect ongoing plots.
a) Muslims had complaints before the waterboarding started. There was this incident known as 9/11 which demonstrated that fairly succinctly. When the refer to the US as the Great Satan, it predated Bush and Clinton.

b) Former Vice President Cheney got it right - release the details about what information waterboarding elicited. If there were 1000 dead ends and only 1 real lead, that 1 real lead may have saved 1000 American lives. At the expense of scaring a handful of terrorists. Seems like a no-brainer to me.

These things all have real consequences. And Obama is establishing a record of being soft on adversaries. Make no mistake, Iran, North Korea, Venezuela and terrorists are adversaries.

This is where the GOP can make it's points on President Obama. He simply doesn't have the stomach for the job on the international stage. That he is an apologist for the greatest nation on earth, is nothing more than sad.

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