The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

100 Days

It may be that Barack Obama, defeated yesterday by Hillary Clinton in OH and TX, may yet rebound and seize the Democratic Presidential nomination. The Democrats, political idealists to the core, condemn the idea that Super Delegates might negate the “will of the people” and make a pragmatic decision about who would be the best presidential candidate. The Dems better be careful what they wish for.

It may also be that Obama’s soaring political rhetoric is just that, political rhetoric, and his actual intentions once elected would be more pragmatic. His advisors said as much when discussing NAFTA with Canadian representatives.

But what if Barack Obama means exactly what he says. Michael Gerson examines the first 100 days of a Barack Obama presidency:
As a thought experiment, consider the foreign policy achievements of Obama's first 100 days.

Redeeming his Inaugural pledge to "pay any price, bear any burden, fly any distance to meet with our enemies," Obama's first major international meeting is with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran. National security adviser Samantha Power does her best to talk tough on human rights in preparation for the meeting. But, as Henry Kissinger once said, "When talks become their own objective, they are at the mercy of the party most prepared to break them off." Having made Iranian talks "without precondition" his major foreign policy goal, Obama is left with little leverage to extract concessions, and little choice but to move forward.

The New York Post runs a front-page picture of the Obama/Ahmadinejad handshake under the headline "Surrender Summit!" The story notes another of Obama's historic firsts: the first American president to meet with a Holocaust denier. The Israeli prime minister publicly asks, "Why is the American president meeting with a leader who calls us 'filthy bacteria' and threatens to wipe us 'off the map'?" Tens of thousands protest in Tel Aviv, carrying signs reading "Chamberlain Lives!"

America's moderate Arab allies in the region also feel betrayed, assuming that America is cutting a bilateral deal with Iran that accepts its nuclear ambitions, while leaving the Sunni powers out in the cold. The Egyptian press notes that President Obama's motorcade in Tehran passed near a street named in honor of Khaled Eslamboli, the assassin of President Anwar Sadat.

Shell-shocked by the criticism, the Obama administration moves its forthcoming presidential summit with Raul Castro to the Turks and Caicos, in a vain attempt to limit press scrutiny. The four-minute, Friday evening meeting -- photographers are forbidden -- still results in hundreds of thousands of Cuban protesters in Miami. Spouses of the imprisoned and tortured carry pictures of their loved ones. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez praises Obama's visit as a "public apology for generations of American imperialism and militarism."

At the same time, the Obama administration is arm-twisting Mexico and Canada into a renegotiation of NAFTA. The Mexican president wonders aloud to the press: "Why is the new president courting his enemies in the hemisphere while insulting his closest friends?"

Obama's Oval Office speech to the nation on Iraq is initially more successful. As promised, he orders a phased, unconditional withdrawal of combat forces, beginning "not in six months or one year -- now." American troops will no longer be embedded in Iraqi combat units or used to combat Iranian influence (all pledges made during his campaign).

Many Americans cheer. But the next day, The Washington Post records stunned disbelief among the troops. A high-ranking officer observes, "The surest way to break the morale of the military is to undo its achievements and humiliate it on the verge of success." Egypt, Saudi Arabia and other Sunni allies react with panic at another sign of American unsteadiness and retreat from the region. Armed groups of Sunni and Shiites within Iraq begin preparing for a resumption of sectarian conflict. An intercepted al-Qaeda communication talks of "so much defeat, exhaustion and death -- and then, praise be, this unexpected victory!"

Obama's 100-day agenda would be designed, in part, to improve America's global image. But there is something worse than being unpopular in the world -- and that is being a pleading, panting joke. By simultaneously embracing appeasement, protectionism and retreat, President Obama would manage to make Jimmy Carter look like Teddy Roosevelt.

Those of us who are old enough to remember the debacle that was the Carter presidency can’t help but believe that Obama is indeed the second coming – of Jimmy Carter.

The unintended consequences of Carter’s ill-conceived approach to foreign policy are with us to this day—in fact President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran is one of those unintended consequences. There’s a certain symmetry to Obama’s insistence on meeting with that little man. From Carter, the little man was spawned. Back to Carter, a President Obama intends to return. I shudder at the thought.