Never mind the world burning outside your window – President Obama thinks he’s been doing a terrific job on the international front. From the Associated Press:
President Barack Obama is offering a glimpse into how he would want history to judge his presidency by emphasizing the U.S. recovery, his health care law and his foreign policy. His summary was as much legacy building as it was a response to criticism of his tenure from the growing list of Republicans presidential candidates.
Obama was asked during a session with Southeast Asian leaders how he would want the world to remember him. He joked: “Fondly, I hope.”
Republicans seeking the presidential nomination have been especially critical of Obama’s foreign policy, arguing that the world is more dangerous now than when he took office.
Obama argued that his administration has brought new international respect for the U.S. “We have put our international relationships on very strong footing,” he said.
A “recovery” that just gave us a negative 0.7 percent contraction, a health care plan that hasn’t lived up to a single one of its promises – and is bidding to blow health insurance costs into orbit next year – and foreign policy that wiped out America’s influence in virtually every corner of the world, especially the Middle East, where the gains in Iraq were thrown away, and the group Obama misjudged as the “junior varsity league” of terrorism is sacking cities? What’s not to love? Hey, America is more popular in Cuba and Iran now, right?
In fairness, there is no politician on Earth who would answer this sort of “how will history judge you?” question by admitting he or she has been a dismal failure. Obama’s delusional posturing has a particularly dangerous component, however: he confuses popularity with respect.
Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush, was weak against domestic political adversaries but enjoyed a measure of respect on the international stage. Obama is the reverse. Our global adversaries, and some opportunistic allies, have learned the key to manipulating this President is that he desperately wants international crises to go away, so he can focus on “transforming” his own country (as he famously put it.) Political capital spent on foreign crises becomes unavailable for his domestic agenda. Foreign policy can be notoriously unforgiving. Among other things, the media establishments of other countries are far less indulgent of Obama than America’s is.
Another important tool for foreign governments looking to manipulate Obama is his gigantic ego. Say nice things about him personally, most especially including praise as a “transformative” or “historic” figure, and he’ll give away the store. His obsession with the “grievances” of various oppressed groups makes him less than 100 percent eager to take his own country’s side without reserve. He kicked off his presidency with a global apology tour, and it was duly noted by leaders who have absolutely no interest in apologizing for any part of their national history.
They’ve also noticed that his response to Americans kidnapped and brutalized overseas involves hopping off the links to deliver brief boilerplate statements. Obama, and his former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, were primarily concerned with what their domestic political opponents would make of their hideous bungle in Benghazi. They never quite appreciated what message it was sending to the rest of the world about their lazy ineptitude, their obsession with spin and messaging, and their lack of resolve. No one should be able to get away with killing an American ambassador, but someone did.
The Iranians certainly learned all of this, along with correctly anticipating – or, perhaps, being quietly told behind the scenes – of Obama’s plan to set them up as a Middle Eastern nuclear hegemon. The mullahs noticed how he fumbled the Green Revolution against them. The crazy thing about Iranians is that they don’t really put any effort into flattering Obama – they find a new way to insult him nearly every day, treating his “nuclear deal” with undisguised contempt and loudly announcing their intention to violate its most important terms. They know he can’t walk away – he can’t handle the hit to his prestige, and he most especially can’t tolerate the notion of his critics being proven correct.
As for the rest of the world, well, they’ve noticed “regime change” is something Obama reserves for America’s allies. Obama’s team never has understood the damage to American prestige caused by their relentless campaign against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. They’ve blithely assumed factions that dislike Netanyahu would be grateful to Obama for trying to get rid of him. In truth, most of those inclined to applaud Netanyahu’s ouster want Israel to suffer far worse than any American president can tolerate, so their gratitude was bound to be very short-lived if Obama had succeeded.
The Muslim Brotherhood government Obama supported in Egypt is gone, but his role in bringing it to power has not been forgotten. The Saudis think so little of this President that they launched a military invention in Yemen without telling him, because they feared he would spill the beans to Iran. The only firm stance Obama ever took against aggression was in Syria, and the upshot was the phrase “red line” becoming a pathetic joke. Libya is an unholy disaster. When Boko Haram took slaves, Team Obama responded with placards and frowny-face selfies. American influence in Eastern Europe has deteriorated to the point that NATO must reassure its members that they really will respond to an attack against them. China is busy writing up a new world order with itself as top nation.
Of course some of the people taking America to the cleaners in the Age of Obama make an effort to talk about him in glowing personal terms. He’s the best thing that ever happened to them. They understand that vain people have a great deal of trouble distinguishing between the sweet candy of popularity and the rougher, but more nourishing, meal of respect.
How will history judge Obama? Who cares? It’s how the present is judging him that should scare us out of wits. It’s also hard to avoid noticing that his prospective Democrat successors aren’t exactly treating him as a model President whose policies they intend to emulate.