As Scott and John have noted, President Obama ended his latest press conference with a tribute to his own persistence. He did so in response to a question about the prospects for “peace” between Israel and the Palestinians. He also pledged persistence in his efforts to engage Iran.
I have no reason to doubt that Obama will persistently sweet-talk our enemies (Warren Christoper, call your office) while persistently hectoring Israel. But such persistence is cheap; it’s akin to the persistence of a child begging a parent or arguing with a sibling, except that children know enough to whine in pursuit of their own interests.
A more meaningful persistence would involve adhering to a principled course of action in the face of adversity. To this sort of persistence Obama can make no claim; rather his shifting positions on the Iraq war demonstrate that it is a quality he lacks.
Peter Wehner has documented the opportunistic twists and turns that characterized Obama’s approach to what he called “the most important foreign-policy decision in a generation.” In late 2004, Obama declared:
[O]nce the decision was made, then we’ve got to do everything we can to stabilize the country, to make it successful, because we’ll have too much at stake in the Middle East. And that’s the position that I continue to take.
But two years later, Obama was fully prepared to accept failure, and indeed defeat, at the hands of al Qaeda and the pro-Iranian militias. And six months after that, he voted against funding for combat operations and then called for the “immediate” removal of all of our combat troops.
The idea of persistence is embodied in the old saying, “when the going gets tough, the tough get going.” Perhaps when it came to Iraq, Obama misunderstood the meaning of “get going.”