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Posts Tagged ‘Obama’

15
Apr

The President Refuses to Engage

   Posted by: FMFP    in Budget/Economy, health care   Print Print

Before the President delivered his much anticipated budget speech on Wednesday, my fellow GPP blogger asked, “Where are our leaders?” He’s right to ask the question, particularly after watching the President talk. For those looking for a detailed response to Cong. Paul Ryan’s budget plan, this was not the speech for you. The details were replaced with high-minded rhetoric about why government is needed to fix all of society’s ills and was basically just another campaign speech for Obama 2012.

The President also took the occasion to excoriate Mr. Ryan and his plan, claiming it will all but take food out of children’s mouths and kick grandma to the curb. Of course, Mr. Ryan graciously sat just a few feet away taking these blows because the President insisted he be there. And to think, this is the bipartisanship President Obama had in mind when he was talking about change.

Yesterday Mr. Ryan had a chance to respond to the President in the Washington Post. Here’s an excerpt:

“It [the GOP budget] offers a contrast in credibility. Unlike the president’s speech, which was rhetorically heated but substantively hollow, our budget contains specific solutions for confronting the debt and averting the most predictable crisis in our nation’s history. It also offers a contrast in visions. Unlike the speech, our budget advances a vision of America in which government both keeps its promises to seniors and lives within its means…

If you are someone who agrees with the president that we cannot avoid this outcome without resorting to large tax increases, know this: No amount of taxes can keep pace with the amount of money government is projected to spend on health care in the coming years. Medicare and Medicaid are growing twice as fast as the economy — and taxes cannot rise that fast without a devastating impact on jobs and growth.

If you believe that spending on these programs can be controlled by restricting what doctors and hospitals are paid, know this: Medicare is on track to pay doctors less than Medicaid pays, and Medicaid already pays so little that many doctors refuse to see Medicaid patients. These arbitrary cuts not only fail to control costs, they also leave our most vulnerable citizens with fewer health-care choices and reduced access to care.

And if you believe that we must eliminate waste, fraud and abuse in these programs, know this: Eliminating inefficient spending is critical, but the only way to do so is to reward providers who deliver high-quality, low-cost health care, while punishing those who don’t. Time and again, the federal government has proved incapable of doing that.”

Well said, Mr. Ryan. Now if only the President and Democrats would join the conversation.

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13
Apr

Where Are Our Leaders?

   Posted by: Pat    in Budget/Economy, health care   Print Print

Today we need a leader, not a politican or celebrity.

Senator Barack Obama in 2006 in reference to his ‘No’ vote on raising the debt limit:

The fact that we’re here today to debate raising America’s debt limit is a sign — is a sign of leadership failure. Leadership means the buck stops here. Instead, Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren. America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership. Americans deserve better. I therefore intend to oppose the effort to increase America’s debt limit.

Senator Obama was right. Today, President Obama is set to make a speech outlining how he would lead the country through our mounting fiscal crisis. I have the word ‘lead’ italicized because so far as President, Barack Obama, has done everything but lead on this issue. Just a few months ago he put out a budget for the next ten years that featured more than a $1 trillion dollars of debt annually. He used the fiscal crisis to pass another unfunded and uncontrollable entitlement program at a time when our current ones were becoming untenable. This is a time for leadership and so far President Barack Obama has refused to lead. Let’s hope today that changes.

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5
Apr

Mead on the War in Libya

   Posted by: Pat    in China, Middle East, Russia   Print Print

I would like to highlight Walter Russell Mead’s recent piece on America’s war in Libya, ‘The Shores of Tripoli: Our Latest Wilsonian War‘. As usual, Mead’s take is thoughtful, fair, historically grounded, and brings to light aspects of the situation that I at least haven’t thought of before. Here’s an excerpt:

We will, I very much hope, be lucky enough to come out of this Wilsonian war in Libya with a decent result.  What follows, though, will not be a Wilsonian peace.  The Libyan adventure is a lot of things: a noble effort to protect innocent civilians from horrifying goons, an experiment in a new kind of indirect American leadership, a last desperate throw of the dice by a hyperactive French president whose people increasingly loathe him, an attempt by flustered Arab establishmentarians to get on the right side of popular fury, a demonstration of Britain’s enduring if tortured moralism, a slugging match in the sand, and a nailbiting distraction for a White House that has repeatedly failed to convince voters that it is ‘focused like a laser’ on the economy and has much more to lose if this goes bad than it has to win if things work.

But there is one thing it won’t be, even if it “works”: the start of a new age of multilateral cooperation under the rule of law.  The UN-blessed response to Iraq’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait failed to start the new age of peace, collective security and law; similarly the liberation of Libya is a fluke not a trend.

Mead also clearly layouts the realpolitik aspects behind the individual decisions made by Russia, China, and France to lead, abstain, or reject an activist policy in North Africa. In other words, this war is not a Wilsonian one for those guys. Here is Mead’s conclusion:

We will, I very much hope, be lucky enough to come out of this Wilsonian war in Libya with a decent result.  What follows, though, will not be a Wilsonian peace.  The Libyan adventure is a lot of things: a noble effort to protect innocent civilians from horrifying goons, an experiment in a new kind of indirect American leadership, a last desperate throw of the dice by a hyperactive French president whose people increasingly loathe him, an attempt by flustered Arab establishmentarians to get on the right side of popular fury, a demonstration of Britain’s enduring if tortured moralism, a slugging match in the sand, and a nailbiting distraction for a White House that has repeatedly failed to convince voters that it is ‘focused like a laser’ on the economy and has much more to lose if this goes bad than it has to win if things work.

But there is one thing it won’t be, even if it “works”: the start of a new age of multilateral cooperation under the rule of law.  The UN-blessed response to Iraq’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait failed to start the new age of peace, collective security and law; similarly the liberation of Libya is a fluke not a trend.

We have had Wilsonian wars before and I have no doubt we will have them again.  You can, sometimes, wage Wilsonian war.  What you cannot do, at least not yet and probably never, is build a Wilsonian peace.

Woodrow Wilson discovered this almost a century ago.  He could fight a “war to end war” and make the world safe for democracy; but a fatal combination of American political resistance at home and the cold calculations of national self interest by leaders abroad thwarted his attempt at Versailles to create a new global order on Wilsonian lines.

Like Wilson, President Obama is going to find it easier to fight for humanitarian ideals than to make them prevail.

Thoughts? Critiques?

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28
Mar

Libyan War: Question Time #3

   Posted by: Pat    in Middle East   Print Print

For our third and final Question Time concerning the Libyan war, we turn our attention to the views of a so-called ‘Average Joe’. Our ‘Joe’ is no foreign policy expert or political junkie, but has been keeping an eye on the Middle East upheaval and the situation in Libya. His perspective on the issue should be enlightening as he likely represents many other ‘average’ Americans who are watching these events unfold on their television and computer screens. With the United States militarily attacking Qaddafi’s forces in Libya and many in this country questioning exactly why we are intervening (Rasmussen has only 45% supporting US military action) in the civil conflict, the views, aka support or lack there of, of average Americans will be integral in how the Obama administration proceeds. Enjoy.

1. Why do you think the Obama administration made the decision to join France and the UK to institute a no-fly zone and bomb Qaddafi’s forces in Libya? Do you support the decision? Why or why not?

Average Joe: I think that Obama finally decided to support France and UK because he didn’t have any alternative at this point, and was forced to make a decision finally.  It would be a major disgrace to not support our allies. Yes I support the decision, even tough I don’t think Obama has a real vision or strategy.  I think Libya is an example of a country whose leader will stop at nothing to restore order, and will slaughter anything that stands in the way.  Libya is also a real opportunity to keep the momentum going with regards to rebellion in other oppressive nations ( Syria, Bahrain, Iran etc). Also it’s important to be a nation that supports freedom throughout the world.

2. In Egypt, Bahrain, Yemen, Syria, Libya, and Tunisia there are citizens voicing their opposition to the ruling class and leader(s) and refusing to let the status quo remain. What do you think of these recent uprisings throughout the Arab world? What will they lead to? How do you think they will affect the United States?

Average Joe: I think they are all corrupt nations and I’m glad to see the people starting to rise up against these monarchies and unjust societies.  I think this is only natural as we have seen this in Europe and our own history. It needs to happen. I’m not sure what it will lead to, just as America’s future was unclear in the beginning.

I’m optimistic though, most of the protesting and revolutions have had economic factors as a driving force – no jobs and no opportunity for the masses. I don’t think that any new oppressive or Islamist fanatical regimes could take over and provide the type of economic freedom necessary to satisfy these needs.  I also wouldn’t discount the importance of people remaining “connected” to the Internet and outside world. Something that was so important during the revolutions.  Basically, I don’t see these nations trading one dictator for another.  Once freedoms are established, it’s much harder to take them away.

However if Islamic extremists do take power via democratic elections, so be it.  At least then we will have clarity on where things stand in that part of the world.

Any other ‘Average Joe’s’ out there that would like to comment?

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24
Mar

The War in Libya: Question Time #2

   Posted by: Pat    in Uncategorized   Print Print

This time FMFP finds himself under the hot lights of questions written by yours truly. Let’s see how he does…

1. Why do you think the Obama administration chose to attack Libya? Why Libya? Why now? How would you say the decision making process and final choice to start an intervention in Libya’s civil war reflects an Obama Doctrine?

FMFP: I will start with your last question. An Obama Doctrine at this point can be traced to a document written in 2008 by some of President Obama’s closest foreign policy advisers called, “Strategic Leadership: Framework for a 21st Century National Security Strategy.” Daniel Henninger of the Wall Street Journal recently captured the meat of the strategy in a recent article:

“Their blueprint…counsels constant multilateral cooperation, institution-building and consultation. While it admits U.S. preeminence, it is largely a meditation on the limits of American power and authority (my italics). This is the document’s final, summarizing sentence: ‘And such [U.S.] leadership recognizes that in a world in which power has diffused, our interests are best protected and advanced when others step up and at times lead alongside or even ahead of us.’”

As to why Libya and why now, I can only guess. Perhaps because the pressure to do something became so great and after weeks of indecision and paralysis by America, the French and British finally decided they would take the lead. Only then was it safe for the Obama Administration to act without feeling beholden to the imperialist claims that so many of the Left’s base feel naturally inclined to lodge every time American action is taken abroad.

2. When you hear the words ‘Commander and Chief’, what comes to your mind? In this vein, how does President Obama’s performance in the role, specifically in regards to Libya, but also more generally, compare to your vision?

FMFP: Commander-in-Chief is the leader of the country’s armed forces and tasked with protecting the American people against threats, foreign and domestic. This position comes with unbelievably tough decisions and responsibility. It requires leadership, instinct, skill in foreign diplomacy and ultimately, an unflinching desire to protect American citizens at all cost. Needless to say when I think of President Obama, the first thing that pops in to my head is Hillary Clinton’s famous “3AM White House Phone Ringing” Ad:

These travails are certainly no easy matter to decide but that’s what being a leader is all about and for the biggest foreign policy events of Obama’s presidency he has been silent, indecisive and weak. The next candidate for president should run that ad again and show Obama golfing, writing op-eds about gun safety and filling out his NCAA bracket while the world’s on fire. Sadly, in reference to question 1, this is probably the role Obama envisions the US playing as long as he’s president – keeping his head down as President Sarkozy and Prime Minister Cameron make the tough decisions.

Tomorrow, Average Joe takes the GPP stage to offer us how might a ‘normal’ American citizen view US involvement in Libya and the Middle East turmoil.

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23
Mar

The War in Libya: Question Time #1

   Posted by: Pat    in Uncategorized   Print Print

The next three days GPP will feature a Q & A covering the ongoing war in Libya. Today will feature questions by FMFP to myself, representing a so-called foreign affairs expert. I am no master of Libyan politics and society, but I will do my best to provide a thoughtful analysis of the war from an American perspective while answering FMFP’s questions.

1. Americans have proven quite resistant to military action based on humanitarian concerns. Whether it’s going after the country that was primarily responsible for 9/11 (Afghanistan), a merciless dictator feeding instability and seeking WMDs in a vital energy-producing region (Iraq), or a mix of all of the above (Somalia), American popular opinion is hard to maintain even with national interests at stake. Thus far President Obama has been practically absent on the US interests at stake in Libya and further, there appears to be no clear game plan, objectives or exit strategy in place. Given this historical and political context, how long do you see President Obama maintaining support for air strikes or even promoting more aggressive military action? How much deference will the American public grant the President before raising these concerns?

“Left unchecked, we have every reason to believe that Qaddafi would commit atrocities against his people. Many thousands could die. A humanitarian crisis would ensue. The entire region could be destabilized, endangering many of our allies and partners.”

President Obama on Libya, March 18

First off, Americans have proven throughout the past 250 odd years that they are willing to fight and die for their national security, their freedom, and the freedom of others. If a country or group messes with the United States, the Jacksonian streak in our culture rears its head and demands retribution. As of right now, Libya doesn’t fit that description and that is why the Obama administration has to be careful. Qaddafi’s regime has American blood on its hands, spoken ill of our intentions and nature, and is currently violently putting down his own countrymen to secure his dictatorship, but none of these are at a high enough emotional or strategic level that would get a majority of Americans to believe that we must use extensive resources and blood to remove and replace him. This does not mean that a majority of Americans won’t support the implementation of a no-fly zone, which has and will include bombings and missile strikes against Qaddafi forces, nor that they don’t sympathize with the rebels opposed to the brutal and backward Qaddafi regime.

The key here is time, resources, and objectives. The Obama administration clearly plans for this endeavor to be short-lived, or at least the part led by the United States, and does not exert too much pressure on American military resources, but wars hardly ever go as planned. Turning to objectives, President Obama has, as his quote above shows, attempted to justify the US involvement in Libya’s civil war by referring to the humanitarian disaster and warning that the situation could lead to further regional instability that could harm our allies, and therefore, ourselves. But there’s a problem. President Obama said these words on Friday, March 18 (when most Americans are concentrated on other matters) and then went on a trip to Brazil. I did an informal test of the knowledge about the war with some of my co-workers, neighbors, family, etc. and did not find many who knew what the heck was going on and had even less knowledge of why the US was getting involved. Americans will follow a President into war and sustain the effort if he can show them that the fight is worth fighting. President Obama’s lackluster effort engaging the public and explaining our objectives, combined with his poor job propping up  American/NATO efforts in Afghanistan, does not give one great confidence.

2. It’s been just a few days since the U.N. coalition began bombing in Libya and already we are hearing complaints from the Arab League that they only supported a no-fly zone, not aerial bombing. Considered a crucial partner in the campaign and a central element in President Obama’s “world-wide approach,” what is the likelihood of maintaining the Arab League’s support for the mission? What implications will this have on the resolve of the UN and the US particularly?

Good question. The Arab League went from supporter of international intervention in Libya to skeptic in near rapid fashion. The group has voiced concern over civilian casualties caused by the process involved to create a no-fly zone in Libya. This is not unexpected as no one wants to be on the side of innocents being harmed by outsiders, especially if you’re considered the ‘in’ group, but the whole US/France/UK/Arab League/UN mission was to protect the Libyan civilians being crushed by Qaddafi’s forces. There have also been no documented reports of civilian casualties caused by allied bombing, which has been painstakingly made to only harm Qaddafi’s forces. The Arab League’s support is indeed important, and it was probably necessary to get the Obama administration and United Nations Security Council on board (or at least abstaining), but it’s relevancy should not be overstated. As long as the group continues to for the most part support the military intervention and oppose the rule of Qaddafi there should not be any major impact on the ongoing war effort. In fact, calls for the allies to be careful in their military efforts by the Arab League, should not be surprising. They represent those civilians in many ways and obviously do not want to be seen as puppets of the US/UK/France.

Tomorrow, FMFP, a domestic policy junkie, takes the stage and faces questions from yours truly. The last session we will see the views of an ‘Average Joe’.

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22
Mar

Comparing Wars: Libya and Iraq

   Posted by: FMFP    in Uncategorized   Print Print

By no means is Libya a simple issue, nor do these facts necessarily argue against the actions taken by the United States, but it is important to take this opportunity to put our last major military intervention in Iraq into perspective by considering just a few facts:

International Support
* Coalition partners Bush had for Iraq: 30
* Coalition partners Obama has for Libya: 17

Domestic Support (Pew Research Center)
* Decision to use military force in Iraq (March 2003): 72% support/22% oppose
* Decision to enforce no-fly zone in Libya (March 2011): 44% support/45% oppose
* Decision to bomb Libyan air defenses (March 2011): 16% support/77% oppose

Constitutional Considerations
* Candidate Obama (2007): “The President does not have power under Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military strike.”
* President Obama (2011): “Obama did not seek congressional authorization before joining allies, including Great Britain and  France, in taking military action against the regime of Libyan dictator Col. Moammar Gadhafi in order to establish a no-fly zone over that country. The action was approved by the United Nations Security Council but not by the U.S. Congress.” – CNS.com

Congressional Support
* Iraq war resolution passed House 297-133 and Senate 77-23.
* Libyan war resolution: does not exist

Objective
* US objective in Iraq War: Topple Saddam Hussein regime, replace with democratically-elected government, stop race to obtain and use WMDs and ultimately bring more stability to Middle East.
* US objective in Libya: Stop Qaddafi from murdering Libyan residents, ???

Public Demonstrations

* Iraq War: Major protests in San Francisco, New York, Portland
* Libya War: Crickets….

The Iraq war started in 2003 and the present one in Libya have numerous differences, but I thought the comparisons above were worth highlighting. GPP will have much more on the ongoing American/UK/French war efforts in Libya throughout the next few days.

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I would like to thank David Harsanyi of the Denver Post and The Detroit News for helping me compile this small list featuring just some of the bureaucratic web that is our federal government:

  • 56 separate programs to help people better understand their finances
  • 18 federal food and nutrition assistance programs, costing taxpayers $62.5 billion in 2008
  • 10 agencies or departments administering 82 programs dealing with teacher quality
  • 80 different economic development programs
  • 15 different agencies overseeing food safety
  • 18 programs responsible for delivering food assistance to the poor
  • 24 federal agencies operating data centers
  • 20 programs dealing with homelessness
  • 44 programs among Education, Labor and Health and Human Services Departments delivering employment and job training programs
  • 5 agencies within the Transportation Department administering more than 100 involved in surface transportation, highway, traffic safety, and railroads

I’m sure many of these programs serve a valuable purpose, but the redundancy of similar programs showcases a federal government that has grown to such a size that it is just feeding off it self. Bureaucracies by their nature grow they don’t wither and the plethora of these programs and departments listed above is proof. Eighty-two programs for promoting teacher quality! We are just talking federal level here, folks. Under President Obama, the budget of the Department of Education has more than doubled, with even this year, where ‘austerity’ is in vogue, seeing it grow another 4.2%. This is not money for books or better teachers, this is a raise for the bureaucracy known as the Department of Education.

In this chart below made by the Cato Institute, one can easily see the growth of all aspects of government from 2007-2012:

I would like to highlight the tremendous growth of ‘Other Mandatory’, which according to CATO features federal employee benefits, food stamps, etc and ‘Domestic Discretionary’, which of course features funding for bureaucracies like the Department of Education, Transportation, etc. President Obama has said that he wants to freeze spending on these sectors. Well, that’s nice, but how about we bring them back down to a level pre-Stimulus spending binge instead. It’s like our government has had 10 shots of patron and said ‘that’s enough, I’m done’. Unfortunately, that leaves us all in a sick and woozy position.

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Since passage of Obamacare, Democrats of all stripes have been interested in talking about almost any subject other than health care. Put aside talk of a signature achievement, this has been a Pandora’s box of bad policies and politics that Democrats have had to either defend at their peril or run from without directly insulting their party’s leadership and President. At this point, it’s almost a contest to see what claim proved the most outrageous, non-sensical or downright not true.

One of the first claims to fall apart was President Obama’s oft-repeated promise, “If you’ve got health insurance, you like your doctors, you like your plan, you can keep your doctor, you can keep your plan.” Since passage, health care providers have begun consolidating to avoid business-killing taxes and regulations. Insurance companies have been forced to raise premiums to account for scores of new benefit mandates and restrictions on what types of plans they can offer. And small businesses are looking to cut costs by dropping coverage for their employees who will now have to look to the expanded Medicaid program and the state exchanges to cover them. All of these adding tremendous costs and weight to a system that was supposed to become more efficient and cost-effective.

What this has mean for the private sector so far is an effort to get out. And one year out, over 1,000 waivers have been granted by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to unions, non-profits and companies negatively affected by the legislation. Ironically, a cursory review of the waiver list shows a disproportionate number of unions, whom you may remember, were some of the bill’s loudest proponents while it was being debated. Unsurprisingly, when forced to comply with its provisions, unions demonstrated their special status with the Obama Administration and demanded to be saved from this very expensive law.

And it’s not just the basic health care plans that are being altered. Millions of Americans who rely on their FSA’s (Flexible Spending Account) to pay for their child’s special education schooling or HSA’s (Health Saving Account) to pay for over-the-counter medicines will have to find other, likely more expensive options , to get these benefits or pay for these services. Unfortunately, those seeking to actually restrain health care costs are the real losers because it was programs like HSA’s, FSA’s and Medicare Advantage – which also took a major hit under Obamacare – that sought to inject competition into the process and more importantly, give more control over health care costs to the consumer.

Strangely, Nancy Pelosi’s statement that “we have to pass it to find out what’s in it” has proven quite prescient. Slowly but surely, as more of the law’s thousands of provisions are painfully unearthed, we are forced to deal with the explosion of costs, rosy revenue projections, overly burdensome nature of the regulations, and generally unconstitutional nature of the bill’s central provision. I could go on – and I plan to in future posts – but I feel each (broken) promise and corresponding reality deserves its own special attention.

Perhaps next time I’ll discuss what I think could be the biggest whopper of them all, “Obamacare is going to add 30 million people to the insurance rolls AND save billions of dollars doing it.” I know, try not to laugh too hard.

So, what’s your favorite broken promise of Obamacare?

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27
Feb

Libya: President Obama’s Weak Reaction

   Posted by: Pat    in Middle East   Print Print

President Obama has had to walk a fine diplomatic line in America’s dealings with the various uprisings throughout North Africa and the Middle East the past month or so. The governments of Egypt, Tunisia, Jordan, and Bahrain are all strong US allies and their fall would cause numerous headaches for American interests and foreign policies. Libya, on the other hand, does not really fit into this category. Its government leader, Muammar Qaddafi, has been a thorn in the US’s side for decades and has American blood on his hands. Even after giving up his nuclear program to the Bush administration, the Qaddafi regime has on many occasions, including in the past several days, rhetorically stick his thumb in America’s eye.

President Obama has been slow to speak out against and act against the Qaddafi regime at a time when its domestic legitimacy could not be lower. Qaddafi is right now hiring mercenaries to kill and suppress his own people. What does the US have to lose by speaking out and working with the rest of the civilized world (including the Arab League) to bring about his quick demise? Not much.

I would like to highlight two critiques of the Obama administration’s lack of action against Qaddafi from two left-liberal publications. First, Leon Wieseltier in the New Republic

They are fighting authoritarianism, but he is fighting imperialism. Who in their right mind believes that this change does represent the work of the United States or any foreign power? To be sure, there are conspiracy theorists in the region who are not in their right mind, and will hold such an anti-American view; but this anti-Americanism is not an empirical matter. They will hate us whatever we do. I do not see a Middle East rising up in anger at the prospect of American intervention. I see an American president with a paralyzing fear that it will. In those Middle Eastern streets and squares that have endured the pangs of democratization, the complaint has been not that the United States has intervened, but that the United States has not intervened. The awful irony is that Obama is more haunted by the history of American foreign policy in the Middle East than are many people in the Middle East, who look to him for support in their genuinely epochal struggle against the social death in which their tyrannies have imprisoned them. He worries about the repetition of an old paradigm. They are in the midst of a new paradigm. He does not want to be Bush. They want him to be Obama; or what Obama was supposed to be.

And now Christopher Hitchens in Slate

The Obama administration also behaves as if the weight of the United States in world affairs is approximately the same as that of Switzerland. We await developments. We urge caution, even restraint. We hope for the formation of an international consensus. And, just as there is something despicable about the way in which Swiss bankers change horses, so there is something contemptible about the way in which Washington has been affecting—and perhaps helping to bring about—American impotence. Except that, whereas at least the Swiss have the excuse of cynicism, American policy manages to be both cynical and naive.

This has been especially evident in the case of Libya. For weeks, the administration dithered over Egypt and calibrated its actions to the lowest and slowest common denominators, on the grounds that it was difficult to deal with a rancid old friend and ally who had outlived his usefulness. But then it became the turn of Muammar Qaddafi—an all-round stinking nuisance and moreover a long-term enemy—and the dithering began all over again. Until Wednesday Feb. 23, when the president made a few anodyne remarks that condemned “violence” in general but failed to cite Qaddafi in particular—every important statesman and stateswoman in the world had been heard from, with the exception of Obama. And his silence was hardly worth breaking. Echoing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who had managed a few words of her own, he stressed only that the need was for a unanimous international opinion, as if in the absence of complete unity nothing could be done, or even attempted. This would hand an automatic veto to any of Qaddafi’s remaining allies. It also underscored the impression that the opinion of the United States was no more worth hearing than that of, say, Switzerland. Secretary Clinton was then dispatched to no other destination than Geneva, where she will meet with the U.N. Human Rights Council—an absurd body that is already hopelessly tainted with Qaddafi’s membership.

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