On Sunday, The New York Times revealed that President Obama seems to be feeling criticism from those who believe his foreign policy has fallen to shambles. “He’s definitely feeling it,” one guest said to the Times. The paper reported, “It was clear to guests how aware Mr. Obama was of the critics who have charged him with demonstrating a lack of leadership. He brought up the criticism more than once with an edge of resentment in his voice.”
And yet the same Times piece depicted a president entirely unwilling to accept that he has ever made any mistakes, or that he will ever do so. When asked what he would do if his plans for ISIS did not go far enough, for example, Obama “rejected the premise,” according to the Times: “I’m not going to anticipate failure at this point.”
That was not the only premise Obama rejected. The Times stated, “While some critics, and even his former secretary of state, Hillary Rodham Clinton, have faulted him for not arming moderate Syrian rebels years ago, Mr. Obama does not accept the premise that doing so would have forestalled the rise of ISIS.” Obama himself stated, “I have thought that through and tried to apply 20-20 hindsight. I’m perfectly willing to admit they were right, but even if they were right, I still can’t see how that would have changed the situation.”
Obama’s confidence in his own infallibility does not extent to his predecessors in the Oval Office: the Times article has him ripping George W. Bush (“This isn’t going to be fireworks over Baghdad”) and Ronald Reagan (“At one point, Mr. Obama noted acidly that President Ronald Reagan sent Marines to Lebanon only to have hundreds of them killed in a terrorist attack because of terrible planning, and then withdrew the remaining ones, leaving behind a civil war that lasted years. But Reagan, he noted, is hailed as a titan striding the earth”).
And Obama may not have a strategy for the United States, but he certainly can critique Russia and France and ISIS like a Brookings Institute fellow. Obama reportedly suggested that ISIS killing American hostages wasn’t good strategy, and that they should have instead released the hostages “and pinned notes on their chests saying, ‘Stay out of here; this is none of your business.'” ISIS was surely grateful for the advice. Obama was reportedly irritated with French President Francois Hollande for lying about paying terrorists for hostages. And he mocked Russian President Vladimir Putin’s excuse for invading Ukraine, suggest that the same excuse (defending nationals of the homeland) could be used to justify an American invasion of Mexico or Canada.
The job of president, however, requires an actual strategy. And most of all, Obama hates that people want more of him than merely playing MSNBC contributor. The Times reported Obama’s “prickliness as he mocked critics of his more reticent approach to the exercise of American power.” Obama reportedly whined:
“Oh, it’s a shame when you have a wan, diffident, professorial president with no foreign policy other than ‘don’t do stupid things,’ ” guests recalled him saying, sarcastically imitating his adversaries. “I do not make apologies for being careful in these areas, even if it doesn’t make for good theater.”
But that’s the point: all Obama cares about is theater. That’s why he makes primetime announcements about ISIS, all to pump a non-strategy (all while telling his visitors that he’s just being “deliberate”). That’s why he finds pleasure mentally masturbating about the flaws of Ronald Reagan and the aggression of Vladimir Putin, even as he refuses to confront Putin in any real way.
The Times piece, in short, is a profile of a man who does not want to be commander-in-chief, but would much rather be commentator-in-chief. He’s an observer to his own presidency. His salon at the White House – during which, the Times reports, Obama “was calm and confident, well versed on the complexities of the ISIS challenge and in no evident rush to end the discussions,” and during which Obama never opened his briefing book – paints a picture of a man holding court, rather than seeking input for making actual decisions with actual impact.
Obama, it turns out, isn’t an empty chair. He’s just a wannabe MSNBC talking head.
Ben Shapiro is Senior Editor-At-Large of Breitbart News and author of the new book, The People vs. Barack Obama: The Criminal Case Against The Obama Administration (Threshold Editions, June 10, 2014). He is also Editor-in-Chief of TruthRevolt.org. Follow Ben Shapiro on Twitter @benshapiro.