Wednesday, February 4, 2009

That 70s President!

One of my favorite commentators, Victor Davis Hanson (aka "VDH"), rolls-in on President Obama's empty "hope & change" rhetoric and the potential consequences.

The Impending Obama Meltdown

[Victor Davis Hanson]

Some of us have been warning that it was not healthy for the U.S. media to have deified rather than questioned Obama, especially given that they tore apart Bush, ridiculed Palin, and caricatured Hillary. And now we can see the results of their two years of advocacy rather than scrutiny.

We are quite literally after two weeks teetering on an Obama implosion—and with no Dick Morris to bail him out—brought on by messianic delusions of grandeur, hubris, and a strange naivete that soaring rhetoric and a multiracial profile can add requisite cover to good old-fashioned Chicago politicking.

First, there were the sermons on ethics, belied by the appointments of tax dodgers, crass lobbyists, and wheeler-dealers like Richardson—with the relish of the Blago tapes still to come. (And why does Richardson/Daschle go, but not Geithner?).

Second, was the "stimulus" (the euphemism for "borrow/print money") that was simply a way to go into debt for a generation to shower Democratic constituencies with cash.

Then third, there were the inflated lectures on historic foreign policy to be made by the clumsy political novice who trashed his own country and his predecessor in the most ungracious manner overseas to a censored Saudi-run press organ (e.g., Bush is dictatorial, the Saudi king is courageous; Obama can mend bridges that America broke to aggrieved Muslims—apparently Tehran hostages, Rushdie, serial attacks in the 1990s, 9/11, Madrid, London never apparently occurred; and neither did feeding Somalis, saving Kuwait, protesting Chechnya, Bosnia/Kosovo, billions to Egypt, Jordan, the Palestinians, help in two Afghan wars, and on and on).

Fourth, there was the campaign rhetoric of Bush shredding the Constitution—FISA, Guant√°namo, the Patriot Act, Iraq, renditions, etc.—followed by "all that for now stays the same" inasmuch as we haven't ben hit in over seven years and can't risk another attack.

Fifth, Gibbs as press secretary is a Scott McClellan nightmare that won't go away, given his long McClellan-like relationship with Obama (McClellan should have been fired on day hour one on the job). Blaming Fox News for Obama's calamities is McClellan to the core and doesn't work. He already reminds me of Reverend Wright's undoing at the National Press Club—and he will get worse.

Six, Biden is being Biden. Already, he's ridiculed the chief justice, trashed the former VP, bragged on himself ad nauseam in Bidenesque weird ways, and it's only been two weeks.And the result of all this?

At home, Obama is becoming laughable and laying the groundwork for the greatest conservative populist reaction since the Reagan Revolution.Abroad, some really creepy people are lining up to test Obama's world view of "Bush did it/but I am the world": The North Koreans are readying their missiles; the Iranians are calling us passive, bragging on nukes and satellites; Russia is declaring missile defense is over and the Euros in real need of iffy Russian gas; Pakistanis say no more drone attacks (and then our friends the Indians say "shut up" about Kashmir and the Euros order no more "buy American").

This is quite serious. I can't recall a similarly disastrous start in a half-century (far worse than Bill Clinton's initial slips). Obama immediately must lower the hope-and-change rhetoric, ignore Reid/Pelosi, drop the therapy, and accept the tragic view that the world abroad is not misunderstood but quite dangerous. And he must listen on foreign policy to his National Security Advisor, Billary, and the Secretary of Defense. If he doesn't quit the messianic style and perpetual campaign mode, and begin humbly governing, then he will devolve into Carterism—angry that the once-fawning press betrayed him while we the people, due to our American malaise, are to blame.

And then there's the opening salvo of a conflict between our newly elected president and his leading generals.

I received this from In from the Cold via Comrad Karla:

Collision Course

Perhaps this was inevitable. Gareth Porter of the Inter Press Service is reporting that President Obama and his CENTCOM Commander, General David Petraeus, are on a collision course over Iraq. Mr. Porter's recent scoop was reprinted by the World Tribune:

CENTCOM commander Gen. David Petraeus, supported by Defence Secretary Robert Gates,tried to convince President Barack Obama that he had to back down from his campaign pledge to withdraw all U.S. combat troops from Iraq within 16 months at an Oval Office meeting Jan. 21.

But Obama informed Gates, Petraeus and Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen that he wasn't convinced and that he wanted Gates and the military leaders to come back quickly with a detailed 16-month plan, according to two sources who have talked with participants in the meeting.

Obama's decision to override Petraeus's recommendation has not ended the conflict between the president and senior military officers over troop withdrawal, however. There are indications that Petraeus and his allies in the military and the Pentagon, including Gen. Ray Odierno, now the top commander in Iraq, have already begun to try to pressure Obama to change his withdrawal policy.

A network of senior military officers is also reported to be preparing to support Petraeus and Odierno by mobilising public opinion against Obama's decision.

Petraeus was visibly unhappy when he left the Oval Office, according to one of the sources. A White House staffer present at the meeting was quoted by the source as saying, "Petraeus made the mistake of thinking he was still dealing with George Bush instead of with Barack Obama.

"You can almost hear the White House source chuckling as they relayed their version of events. It sounds vaguely reminiscent of Mr. Obama's "I won" comment, during a meeting with Congressional Republicans last week. As the new decider-in-chief, President Obama gets to chart our policy in Iraq (and other global hotspots).

But dismissing the advice of senior generals is usually a bad idea, as Mr. Obama will eventually discover. While some dispute his version of events, if Gareth Porter is correct, then President Obama is facing a posssible revolt among his senior military advisers. Mobilizing public support through the media is not something that flag officers particularly enjoy, given their inherent distrust of the press.

More disturbingly, Mr. Obama's preferred withdrawal plan flies in the face of current realities in the Middle East. As Bret Stephens notes in today's WSJ, Iraq is becoming a U.S. bulwark in the Middle East. The gains achieved by the troop surge are holding, and Iraqi forces are assuming a lead role in securing the country. Last weekend's election was a stunning success, and a model for the Arab word.

Still, the situation in Iraq is not irreversible, one reason that Mr. Gates, General Petraeus and General Odierno favor an extended American draw down. Mr. Stephens observes that American "pillars" in the Middle East have met the test of time. In some cases, the bulwark of yesteryear (think Iran) is today's despotic regime that threatens regional security. Other long-standing American allies, including Pakistan and Turkey) face an uncertain future, at best.

In other words, the U.S. needs all the stable, friendly regimes it can find in the Middle East. But Mr. Obama seems more intent on placating his supporters on the liberal fringe, who've been clamoring for an American pullout since 2003. The President seems willing to risk progress paid for in blood and treasure to full fill a campaign promise--with less regard for what happens 17 months down the road.

If this sounds familiar, it should. Just days into his presidency, Mr. Obama signed an executive order to shut down the terrorist prison at Guantanamo Bay by next year. Just where those suspects will be incarcerated (or face justice) has not been determined. Maybe the administration should change its mantra from "Change We Can Believe In," to "Don't Sweat the Details."

***ADDENDUM: We should also note that the Obama-Petraeus collision has a political component. General Petraeus's successful strategy in Iraq caused a fair amount of consternation for Obama and his fellow Democrats. Kicking and screaming, they had to finally admit that the troop surge worked, and was eminently preferable to their "cut and run" approach. With the Democrats now in the White House, they can finally tell General Petraeus to "shut up and color.

"The friction in the Oval Office is also a prelude to 2012. In some GOP circles, Petraeus is already being mentioned as a potential Senate or Vice-Presidential candidate in four years. By forcing a showdown over Iraq, Obama can tarnish the general's reputation, force him to resign, or even engineer a dismissal. Any of those scenarios would damage the general politically, a calculation that isn't lost on the White House.

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