I remember as a mere callow college student when I made out that Jimmy Carter was finished: when liberals turned on him. For example, Ken Bode, then the revered moderator of “Washington Week in Review” on PBS, wrote in 1979 “It’s Over For Jimmy” in The New Republic: “The past two weeks will be remembered as the period when President Carter packed it in, put the finishing touches on a failed presidency” (There’s lots more in this vein recounted in the first volume of my Age of Reagan books.)
So it shouldn’t surprise us that people are saying Obama’s no-show in Paris last weekend was his “diplomatic Katrina.” More serious is the Daily Beast article out yesterday from Leslie Gelb, who doesn’t come any more Establishmenty than a Harvard-trained Rockefeller. Gelb, notable for chiefly being boring, is the kind of Establishment figure who usually tut-tuts Republican presidents for being too bellicose. But he thinks Obama is circling the drain on foreign policy:
Here’s why America’s failure to be represented at the Paris unity march was so profoundly disturbing. It wasn’t just because President Obama’s or Vice President Biden’s absence was a horrendous gaffe. More than this, it demonstrated beyond argument that the Obama team lacks the basic instincts and judgment necessary to conduct U.S. national security policy in the next two years. It’s simply too dangerous to let Mr. Obama continue as is—with his current team and his way of making decisions. America, its allies, and friends could be heading into one of the most dangerous periods since the height of the Cold War . . .
Before I continue, I have to tell you that I’ve never made such extreme and far-reaching proposals in all my years in this business. I’ve never proposed such a drastic overhaul. But if you think hard about how Mr. Obama and his team handled this weekend in Paris, I think you’ll see I’m not enjoying a foreign policy neurological breakdown.
Gelb goes on to say Obama should fire everyone—including Rasputin Valerie Jarrett—and replace them with—Republicans. To be sure, Establishment Republicans like Tom Pickering, etc. But right now they look pretty darn good next to Obama’s clown show.
Beyond the specifics, if someone like Gelb is saying this publicly, my bet is that a lot of the liberal establishment is saying worse privately. And what about the man at the top? Gelb hedges with some pro forma clichés, but between the lines you can make out what he really thinks:
In the end, making the national security system work comes down to one factor, one man—Barack Obama. He’s the key problem, and he’s the only one who can bring about a solution. He’s such a closed person. He’s first rate as an intellectual thinker, but he thinks about problems as an intellectual and not as a policy maker and a leader.