Edward Lucas Obama has big plans…:
But none of them are working.
Regimes in Moscow, Pyongyang and Tehran simply pocket his concessions and carry on as before. The picture emerging from the White House is a disturbing one, of timidity, clumsiness and short-term calculation. Some say he is the weakest president since Jimmy Carter.
He left out “micromanager”!
Even good moves are ruined by bad presentation. Changing Mr Bush’s costly and untried missile-defence scheme for something workable was sensible. But offensively casual treatment of east European allies such as Poland made it easy for his critics to portray it as naïve appeasement of the regime in Moscow.
Many lefties don’t see the real problem; it’s not the missile system itself. Lefties treat missile defense the same way they treat economic recoveries (when Republicans are in control, anyway); just as every recovery is a “jobless” one until employment skyrockets to unignorably record levels, missile defense will be a “boondoggle” until it becomes airtight (which it’s not yet – but then, no engineering achievement ever succeeds until it does).
No – even thoughtful Obama partisans seem to be unable to get it, but it’s the betrayal. Just as Chamberlain and Daladier casually decided the fate of Czechoslovakia in a summit with Hitler without bothering to invite the Czechs, and as the UK and France abrogated their treaty obligation to rescue Poland without telling the Poles about it, Obama went behind Donald Tusk’s back, directly to Putin.
Mr Obama’s public image rests increasingly heavily on his extraordinary speechifying abilities. His call in Cairo for a new start in relations with the Muslim world was pitch-perfect. So was his speech in Ghana, decrying Africa’s culture of bad government. His appeal to both houses of Congress to support health care was masterly – though the oratory was far more impressive than the mish-mash plan behind it…
But for what? Mr Obama has tactics a plenty – calm and patient engagement with unpleasant regimes, finding common interests, appealing to shared values – but where is the strategy? What, exactly, did “Change you can believe in” – the hallmark slogan of his campaign – actually mean?
Silly Mr. Lucas. It means “the people can believe in the Change and the Hope”. Or something like that.
The President’s domestic critics who accuse him of being the sinister wielder of a socialist master-plan are wide of the mark. The man who has run nothing more demanding than the Harvard Law Review is beginning to look out of his depth in the world’s top job. His credibility is seeping away, and it will require concrete achievements rather than more soaring oratory to recover it.
And Obama’s problem is that his Administration is basically a factory that builds rhetoric. Like any factory, changing the product – from rhetoric to achievement – is a costly re-tooling operation.