President Obama fancies himself a progressive in the Progressive tradition. He wants not only to ride the wave of the future but to sense where it is going and give it a nudge. As with all good progressives, it is history by which Obama takes his bearings, not the self-evident truths of the Declaration of Independence.
Yesterday Obama came out in favor of preserving the democratic “process” in Egypt. The damage Morsi’s authoritarian governance has done to rule of law and the other fundamentals of a free society are left unspoken. Obama sounded like nothing so much as an obtuse schoolmarm, the kind we loved to hate.
Yet it is painfully obvious from his statement in Africa yesterday that Obama seeks to preserve Mohammed Morsi as president of Egypt. Morsi is the man from the Muslim Brotherhood and it has been the project of Obama’s “smart diplomacy,” as he views it, to place the United States on the crest of the rising wave of Islamism in the Middle East. Obama is fine with the Muslim Brotherhood. He wants to help us overcome our inordinate fear of Islamism.
Thus we had the spectacle of his Director of National Intelligence promoting the self-refuting assertion that the Muslim Brotherhood is a “very heterogeneous group, largely secular.” Obama isn’t much for the self-evident truths on which the United States was founded, but his DNI has left us a classic self-evident falsehood (subsequently disavowed).
For a progressive kind of guy, Obama has a tropism for leaders in the troglodyte mold. Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu is of course anathema to Obama, but Obama’s best friend in the Middle East is Turkey’s Islamist Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. The contrast is striking and not in Erdogan’s favor.
Even the headline in this morning’s New York Times suggests the anomaly: “Chaos in the Middle East grows as the US focuses on Israel.”
Obama helped preserve the rule of the mullahs in Iran at a key moment of peril presented by the popular uprising against them in 2009.
Obama would love to find a way to get the United States aligned with the Muslim Brotherhood’s Hamas branch in Gaza and Iran’s Hezbollah subsidiary in Syria and Lebanon. They are the logical terminus of his Middle Eastern fantasies. In the Middle East, anyway, Obama is riding the wave of the eighth century.
Outside the Middle East, Obama has thought he could befriend Russia’s Vladimir Putin. Obama longs to sell out to him. Obama seems not to notice Putin’s czarist pretensions or even Putin’s contempt for Obama.
In 1940 Anne Morrow Lindberg sought to cool Americans out with what she saw as “the wave of the future” in Europe. Her book of the same name had become an overnight sensation. “Few books in the history of publishing have encountered a reception like the one accorded” it, Scott Berg writes in his biography of Charles Lindberg.
Mrs. Lindberg’s book elicited E.B. White’s devastating dissent in the pages of the New Yorker, collected, as I recall, in White’s One Man’s Meat. Mrs. Lindberg’s book is of historical interest only, but White’s essay is still worth reading today.
Perhaps most notably, Mrs. Lindberg’s book also prompted a response from President Roosevelt, once he was safely reelected to his third term on a non-interventionist platform. In his inaugural address, Roosevelt invoked Mrs. Lindberg’s book, “chiseling her metaphor into the public consciousness,” in Berg’s words. “There are men who believe that…tyranny and slavery have become the surging wave of the future — and that freedom is an ebbing tide,” Roosevelt asserted. “But we Americans know that this is not true.” For whatever reason, Roosevelt spoke in a key Obama is unwilling to find.