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

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Just Say No

It’s hard to be President of the United States, and it’s hard all of the time. Barack Obama is finding that out.

On the domestic front, his ill-conceived and poorly structured attempts at health care reform, his support for ruinous cap and trade legislation, and his administration’s lurching attempts to get a difficult economy under control have led members of his own party to just say “no.” Although he suggests that the Republicans are obstructionists, the simple truth is that significant democratic majorities in both houses of Congress could pass all of his legislation easily, except for one thing – members of his own party have serious reservations about what he’s proposing.

On the international front, it’s equally hard. Amir Misroch summarizes Obama’s challenges nicely:
Everybody is saying no to the American president these days. And it's not just that they're saying no, it's also the way they're saying no.

The Saudis twice said no to his request for normalization gestures towards Israel (at Barack Obama's meeting with King Abdullah in Saudi Arabia, and in Washington at meetings with Hillary Clinton). Who says no to the American president twice? What must they think of Obama in the desert kingdom?

The North Koreans said no to repeated attempts at talks, by test-launching long-range missiles in April; Russia and China keep on saying no to tougher sanctions on Iran; the Iranians keep saying no to offers of talks by saying they're willing to talk about everything except a halt to uranium enrichment; Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is saying no by refusing to meet with Binyamin Netanyahu until Israel freezes all settlement construction; the Israelis said no by refusing to agree to a settlement freeze, or even a settlement moratorium until and unless the Arabs ante up their normalization gestures. Which brings us back to the original Saudi no.

Mizroch posits that the reason that everyone is saying “no” to President Obama is that he is perceived as being weak, and that the weakness is caused by a faltering US economy. If the economy doesn’t recover by 2011, Obama is seen as a one-term president. As such, his power diminishes considerably.

I think there a bit more too it than that, but Mizroch is on to something. There’s no doubt that the economy is Obama’s albatross, but some of his other actions also do him harm.

His mea culpa speech in Cairo, while applauded on the Left, was unprecedented in its apologist feel. His “soft power” positions on many international issues find praise in the politically correct power centers of the US and the EU, but our adversaries view them rather differently – as lack of resolve, or worse, a lack of courage to prosecute his country’s interests.

Barack Obama won the presidency, but he hasn’t yet demonstrated that he can lead or that he has the courage to make really hard decisions. And that’s why everyone seems to be saying “no.”