Weary from trying to spin ObamaCare as something more than an absolute disaster, liberals are now expected to make his foreign policy look good, or at least coherent. Part of this strategy has involved dredging up an old quote from George W. Bush, which is supposed to make him appear as naive as Obama.
“I looked the man in the eye,” Bush said of Putin, early in the former’s presidency. “I found him to be very straightforward and trustworthy. We had a very good dialogue. I was able to get a sense of his soul – a man deeply committed to his country, and the best interests of his country.”
Actually, I could still go along with the “straightforward” part. Nobody outside of Barack Obama’s brain trust has illusions about what Putin means to accomplish, or what he’s prepared to do. Putin has never really been all that deceptive in a “great game” sense. He just makes good use of the illusions people like Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and John Kerry insist on holding about him. He knows exactly what he needs to say, to keep them happily cooing and playing with their toys until it’s time to make his move.
Paul Mirengoff at PowerLine observes that a favored Russian tactic – really, something you hear from all but the most giddily evil strongmen of the post-WW2 era – was to “present absurd analogies between his abuses of power and events in the US,” such as the dismissal of Dan Rather at CBS after his clumsy attempt to fabricate a hit piece against Bush using fraudulent documents:
“You talk about Khodorkovsky [the head of Yukos whose assets and freedom were taken from him after he became a critic of Putin], and I talk about Enron,” Putin told Bush. “You appoint the Electoral College and I appoint governors. What’s the difference?”
At another point, Putin defended his control over media in Russia. “Don’t lecture me about the free press,” he said, “not after you fired that reporter.”
“Vladimir, are you talking about Dan Rather?” Bush asked. Yes, replied Putin.
Bush explained to Putin that he had nothing to do with Rather losing his job. “I strongly suggest you not say that in public,” he added. “The American people will think you don’t understand our system.”
Something tells me the tactics Bush easily resisted would work beautifully on Obama, Clinton, and Kerry, especially if Putin was smart enough to throw in a couple of jabs at the Tea Party or other domestic opponents, and perhaps add a dash of flattery for whichever Obama White House sap he was playing like a violin.
We’ll give Bush a demerit for saying “trustworthy,” with the stipulation that Putin treated Bush very differently than the way he handles the current man-child occupant of the White House. Bush would later revise his opinion of Putin’s character sharply downward, which made Hillary Clinton’s “reset button” idiocy all the more horrifying.
But as for Bush’s assessment of Putin as a man “deeply committed to his country and the best interests of his country,” that’s still a valid observation… and it’s one of the key points Obama doesn’t understand, because he has no such commitment. Obama would consider it an insult if someone said he was looking out for America’s interests at the expense of global priorities or internationalist goo-goo rhetoric. He’d be flabbergasted that anyone would think him so provincial. The lack of distinct American interest is one of liberal ideology’s acid tests for the use of our military power. Remember, Obama famously said he thinks America is exceptional in precisely the same way a Greek thinks Greece is exceptional. He meant every word of that.
Putin, on the other hand, thinks Russia is exceptional indeed, and couldn’t give a hoot what Ukrainians think of their unique national destiny. While Obama could easily launch into a three-hour speech if asked to list all problems with America, especially the benighted land of greed and racism that existed before his ascension to office, Putin would growl that Russia’s big problem is that it’s too small at the moment.
What makes all of this worse is that Obama, Clinton, and Kerry – especially Kerry – think Putin feels the same way they do, or at least they did up until about 36 hours ago. They simply could not imagine him doing something outside the sort of international order they eagerly raise beyond American national interest. Just as they’re baffled at the refusal of other nations to cripple their economies in the name of global-warming mythology, they don’t understand how Putin could just order shock troops into the Crimea, and start telling the Ukrainians to surrender their navy. The initial response from the stunned Obama White House to Russia’s aggression in Ukraine made it clear they’re playing an entirely different game than the Russians are – marbles to Putin’s checkers, in the estimation of House Intelligence Chair Mike Rogers (R-MI.)
Putin was willing to humor a lot of Obama’s gobbledygook while he moved his chess pieces into place, but when it came time to prop up his ally in Syria, or secure his hold on Crimea – and maybe even a lot more of the Ukraine – Putin didn’t give Obama a second thought. It’s very common for Western liberals to pretend “national interest” is a quaint obsession of the past, which everyone in the world is eager to outgrow. They’re always stunned when proven wrong, but they never change their ideology accordingly.