Fred Hiatt of the Washington Post argues that it’s time for President Obama to select a new “team of rivals” to assist him.
I don’t buy the argument that the administration’s woes have anything to do with personnel other than Obama himself. The “team of rivals” theme was never more than PR. Nor, in my opinion, has there been a significant diminution of talent in top level positions other than Secretary of Defense.
But Hiatt does a nice job of giving voice to mainstream disenchantment with Obama, and provides an impressive (though hardly exhaustive) catalogue of mainstream grievances:
The administration was surprised when Russian President Vladimir Putin swallowed Crimea. It was caught flat-footed by the crumbling of Iraq and emergence of an al-Qaeda state. Now the region is “a cradle of violent extremism,” Obama’s attorney general said last week. But the president is uncertain how to respond.
Increasingly friends and foes around the world seem comfortable disrespecting the United States . In Egypt, a court sentenced journalists to prison hours after Secretary of State John F. Kerry left Cairo expressing confidence in the government’s commitment to democracy. U.S. ally Bahrain, home to the Navy’s 5th Fleet, expelled an assistant secretary of state. Days after Obama visited the Philippines to support rule of law in the South China Sea, China towed a massive oil rig into waters claimed by Vietnam and, Vietnamese officials said, intentionally rammed two of their ships.
This paragraph seems particularly telling. Obama’s isn’t the first administration to suffer from intelligence failures, and the U.S. will always have policy disagreements with foreign governments, including allies.
But overt acts of blatant disrespect are another matter. They represent the fruits of the unique combination of arrogance and fecklessness that characterizes Obama’s approach to the world.
Hiatt isn’t finished:
Obama visited Berlin in 2008, promising to build bridges between continents that had “drifted apart” in the Bush era. Now Germans are furious at the United States for spying on them. Burma, which Obama recently claimed as a foreign-policy success, last week sentenced four journalists to 10 years of hard labor, one of many signs that reform there has stalled or worse. China barred a U.S. scholar from visiting and rounded up dissidents immediately before last week’s U.S.-China strategic and economic dialogue. Israel and Hamas are drifting toward war after Obama’s second failed effort to broker a peace accord.
The picture isn’t much different on the home front:
[T]he administration seems equally taken aback by the thousands of Central American children flooding across the Southwest border. It sends mixed signals on whether it wants to change the asylum law in response. In the most elementary sort of staffing snafu, the president found himself needlessly on the defensive during a trip to Texas because he refused to visit the border.
Meanwhile the White House message varies by the day. Growing economic inequality, which last December Obama said “challenges the very essence of who we are as a people,” now is rarely mentioned. There seems to be no strategy to propel objectives the White House had set forth as fundamental: immigration reform, trade deals with Asia and Europe, investment in education and infrastructure.
Mainstream critiques like Hiatt’s miss the extent to which Obama has been effective in advancing certain of his leftist agenda items — e.g., retreat from the Middle East, de facto amnesty for large numbers of illegal immigrants. That’s probably because these critics don’t agree that Obama has a hard-left agenda.
But Hiatt’s critique is solid nonetheless. And more and more it is becoming the “rough draft” of the history of the Obama’s second term.