A liberal friend sent me the editorial that the New York Times published practically within seconds of Mitt ending his speech, and asked me to try to defend Mitt from the editorial’s charges. Nothing easier, says I. Here’s a nice little Fisking of the New York Times’ alternate reality:
Mitt Romney wrapped the most important speech of his life, for Thursday night’s session of his convention, around an extraordinary reinvention of history — that his party rallied behind President Obama when he won in 2008, hoping that he would succeed. “That president was not the choice of our party,” he said. “We are a good and generous people who are united by so much more than divides us.”
The truth, rarely heard this week in Tampa, Fla., is that the Republicans charted a course of denial and obstruction from the day Mr. Obama was inaugurated, determined to deny him a second term by denying him any achievement, no matter the cost to the economy or American security — even if it meant holding the nation’s credit rating hostage to a narrow partisan agenda.
There are three good ways to dispose of this argument. The first is to point out that Republicans were fighting a rear-guard action for the first two years of Obama’s term. Obama owned Congress. He had both Houses entirely under his party’s domination. There was little to nothing that the Republicans could do to halt the Progressive political avalanche.
The second, which the New York Times conveniently forgets, is that, in 2010, the American people, at every opportunity, resoundingly rejected everything the Democrat sweep had tried to achieve. They elected a Congress that was manifestly intended to be a bulwark against Obama’s policies. Those Republicans who won after promising to oppose unleashed Progressivism would have been betraying their constituents had they done anything other than put on the brakes.
As I type those last words, I could hear the New York Times editors say “But the Republicans didn’t even try. They just whined and fought, making it more difficult for Obama to corral his majority.” And that leads to the third way of disposing of the argument that Republicans destroyed Obama’s “can’t we all get along?” moments. The fact is that Obama had no “can’t we all get along” moments. He went the other way: “I won.” Those are Obama’s words, and they weren’t uttered on the night of his victory party, when they would have been quite appropriate. Instead, Obama refused even to consider Republican input:
After listening to a critique of the nearly nine hundred billion dollars stimulus package from Republican Congressional leaders, along with some helpful suggestions on how to fix it, President Barack Obama had a two word answer.
“I won,” President Obama said, indicating why the Republicans were not going to have any significant input into the bill. President Barack Obama was echoing sentiments by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi who had explained by the House Democratic leadership version of the stimulus bill was going to pass with or without Republicans.
That wasn’t the last time Barack Obama ignored people. Aside from assigning others to do his dirty work, Obama swiftly acquired a reputation on both sides of the political aisle for being aloof. He not only ignored Republicans, he wasn’t such a big fan of his own Democrats either:
Democrats in Congress say they have grown frustrated with President Obama’s lack of leadership in their ongoing battle with Republicans over spending cuts.
During the 14-month fight over Obama’s national health-care law – the most brutal political battle since the impeachment of Bill Clinton – the president opted not to fully engage until the final three weeks.
If the president declined to take the lead when it came to a multi-trillion-dollar law that will forever be associated with his name, why would Democrats assume that he would be so quick to saddle up for some penny ante squabbling over funding the government for six months?
But in Congress, Democrats, both moderate and liberal, continue to wonder aloud why Obama is not doing more to resolve the current impasse on spending. West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin said it the most tartly, when he charged last week that Obama had “failed to lead,” but we have heard similar refrains from many of his colleagues.
Barack Obama has proven repeatedly to be a “my way or the highway” kind of guy. From practically his first month in office, when Republicans approached him in good faith, he explicitly rejected any attempts to compromise — a peculiar inflexibility that began to make sense when one sees that Obama eventually refused even to work with his own party.
Mr. Romney’s big speech, delivered in a treacly tone with a strange misty smile on his face suggesting he was always about to burst into tears, was of a piece with the rest of the convention. Republicans have offered precious little of substance but a lot of bromides (“A free world is a more peaceful world!”) meant to convey profundity and take passive-aggressive digs at President Obama. But no subjects have received less attention, or been treated with less honesty, than foreign affairs and national security — and Mr. Romney’s banal speech was no exception.
I’ll let the preceding paragraph pass. It’s certainly mean-spirited, and it’s stupid insofar as it expects a convention to be anything more than a shiny-faced political party roll-out, but it’s too insubstantial to merit serious comment.
It’s easy to understand why the Republicans have steered clear of these areas. While President Obama is vulnerable on some domestic issues, the Republicans have no purchase on foreign and security policy. In a television interview on Wednesday, Condoleezza Rice, the former secretary of state, could not name an area in which Mr. Obama had failed on foreign policy.
That last sentence I quoted explains why I don’t like Condi. It’s so easy to name multiple areas in which Obama has failed in foreign policy. She wants to be Mrs. Nice Gal, however, and invariably ends up yielding to the bad actors. She’s a lovely and principled woman, and a great pianist, but she really doesn’t have the intestinal fortitude to deal with direct challenges. And boy, are there are lot of direct challenges to the claim that Obama has been successful at foreign policy:
Iran almost has a nuclear bomb, and Israel is almost certainly on the verge of launching a preempting attack, one that will destabilize the Middle East for who knows how long. And that’s just the political view. The human aspect is that there will be an enormous number of people, both Iranian and Israeli, dying.
Speaking of Israel, the Israeli/Palestinian situation has deteriorated more under Obama than it has under any president I can remember. Under Bush and Condi, at least the two sides were talking. Obama’s and Hillary’s ham-handed approach, by giving the most recalcitrant and blood-thirsty side enormous leeway, put all talks to an end.
Obama sat on his hands during Iran’s Green Revolution. What could have destroyed the Shia fundamentalist government, one that has been in a state of declared war with the U.S. since 1979, ended up strengthening it, as the regime was able to identify and destroy its opposition, both in government halls and on the street.
Obama went the other way with the Arab Spring, fomenting the uprising against governments that were nominally friendly to us, and doing so when there was no democratic alternative. The result has been that Egypt is entirely controlled by the Muslim extremists, while other Arab countries, ranging from Libya (where we gave air support to Islamic fundamentalists) to Tunisia (which has fallen to the fundamentalists) have fallen outside of America’s sway.
In Central and Eastern Europe, Obama snatched a defensive system away from our allies, and has assured Putin, who is no friend to America or democracy generally, that Obama will have more “flexibility” to give Putin what he wants in the next four years.
Pakistan has become increasingly hostile, in large part due to the fact that Obama has used more and more drones (of dubious legality). I hold no brief for Pakistan, but Obama’s acts fall in an ugly shady area that treats our nominal allies as active enemies.
Afghanistan? Allied deaths are increasing as the withdrawal deadline draws near. This is not the type of rising fatalities that inevitably come with a surge tactic, since that is an approach that sees us deliberately engaging in more aggressive battles to destroy our enemy. Instead, our enemies are harrying our retreat, with deadly consequences for the young men (and some young women) who have put their lives on the line for a callous and ungrateful Commander-in-Chief.
All of the above foreign policy failures are just off the top of my head. I’m sure I could come up with more if I thought out it.
For decades, the Republicans were able to present themselves as the tougher party on foreign and military policy. Mr. Obama has robbed them of that by being aggressive on counterterrorism and by flexing military and diplomatic muscle repeatedly and effectively.
This is a hoot. Barring speeding up the Iraq withdrawal (with terrible consequences for freedom loving Iraqis) and announcing an imminent Afghanistan withdrawal (with terrible consequences for American and Allied troops and for the Afghanis), Obama’s robust foreign policy has been either somewhat farcical or has been even more bloodthirsty than the Bush policy that the New York Times denounced so vociferously for eight years.
The farcical part was the bin Laden killing. Yes, it’s great that bin Laden was killed. I doubt that was a strategic victory, but it was a moral victory. But from moment that bullet hit bin Laden’s head, Obama destroyed much of the target value by instantly announcing his triumph (destroying the utility of information seized at the bin Laden compound) and by putting his own SEALS at serious risk (with the result that too many have died). We’ve also learned that Obama was barely able to issue the order, because he was afraid it might make him look bad if the 0peration failed. (That is, national security concerns were not what guided his decision-making).
As for the rest, Obama broke his promise to close Gitmo, started a new war in Libya, and has a personal kill list in Pakistan. Bush was excoriated for the first item on that list, and would have been re-pilloried for the second and third. Indeed, that last one — the kill list — also suggests a president who has gone far beyond his limited expertise (law lecturer, community organizer, etc.), and gotten into the spirit of killing people. I guess the New York Times subscribes to the theory that a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.
Mitt Romney has tried to sound tough, but it’s hard to see how he would act differently from Mr. Obama except in ways that are scary — like attacking Iran, or overspending on defense in ways that would not provide extra safety but would hurt the economy.
Mitt Romney has proven over his career that he is tough. That matters because the mere fact that he is tough is itself a deterrent. Obama is the weak underbelly of foreign policy, which means that bad actors feel free to act badly. They build nuclear reactors, take over American-friendly governments, demand flexibility, etc. In this, though, the Times is consistent. One of the things that drove me away from the Left is its inability to understand that the most dangerous position to be in is one of weakness — or perceived weakness. If you’re strong, or look strong, you’re more likely to be left alone.
And incidentally, when it comes to the economic costs of a military build-up, wasn’t it the New York Times’ own Paul Krugman who assured us that a military build-up is the best way to revitalize the economy? He yearned for an alien attack from outer space, but I think it’s enough to look at the Leftists and Islamists around us, none of whom wish America well.
Before Thursday night, the big foreign policy speeches were delivered by Senator John McCain and Ms. Rice. Mr. McCain was specific on one thing: Mr. Obama’s plan to start pulling out of Afghanistan at the end of 2014 is too rapid. While he does not speak for Mr. Romney, his other ideas were unnerving, like suggesting that the United States should intervene in Syria.
Mr. Romney reportedly considered Ms. Rice as a running mate, and she seems to have real influence. But Ms. Rice is a reminder of the colossal errors and deceptions of George W. Bush’s administration. She was a central player in the decision to invade Iraq and the peddling of fantasies about weapons of mass destruction. She barely mentioned Iraq in her speech and spoke not at all about Afghanistan. She was particularly ludicrous when she talked about keeping America strong at home so it could be strong globally, since she was part of the team that fought two wars off the books and entirely on borrowed money.
Ms. Rice said the United States has lost its “exceptionalism,” but she never gave the slightest clue what she meant by that — a return to President Bush’s policy of preventive and unnecessary war?
Condi was a weak Secretary of State — but not for the reasons the Times claims. She did nothing wrong in believing that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, because those weapons either did exist (and are in Syria now) or because it was reasonable to believe in the nuclear Potemkin Village Hussein had built up around himself. She’s also right, as I said in my above comment, that America is most safe, not when it’s going around bombing Libya, sending drones into Pakistan, and kowtowing to dictators, but when it is economically strong, with a strong defensive military. Where she failed was in her inability to understand that the Palestinians do not want a peaceful two-state solution. They want Jewish genocide, followed by total regional domination. I can’t forgive her for her weakness in that area, even though I know it was weakness without malice.
She and Mr. McCain both invoked the idea of “peace through strength,” but one of the few concrete proposals Mr. Romney has made — spending 4 percent of G.D.P. on defense — would weaken the economy severely. Mr. McCain was not telling the truth when he said Mr. Obama wants to cut another $500 billion from military spending. That amount was imposed by the Republicans as part of the extortion they demanded to raise the debt ceiling.
In this case, extortion is a two-way street. The New York Times seems to have forgotten that the Congressional Democrats have refused to submit any budgets. It’s also forgotten that the budgets Obama submitted were so ludicrous even the Democrats refused to vote for them. Obama is holding the entire economy hostage by insisting on a tax-and-spend approach that has seen Greece and Spain in flames, that promises to destroy the rest of Europe, and that hasn’t been so great for the United States either. The Republicans were naive enough to believe that Obama wouldn’t destroy the whole economy, but they were wrong.
Ms. Rice said American allies need to know where the United States stands and that alliances are vitally important. But the truth is that Mr. Obama has repaired those alliances and restored allies’ confidence in America’s position after Mr. Bush and Ms. Rice spent years tearing them apart and ruining America’s reputation in the world.
See my foreign policy paragraph above.
The one alliance on which there is real debate between Mr. Romney and Mr. Obama is with Israel. But it is not, as Mr. Romney and his supporters want Americans to believe, about whether Mr. Obama is a supporter of Israel. Every modern president has been, including Mr. Obama. Apart from outsourcing his policy to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on settlements, it’s not clear what Mr. Romney would do differently.
Talk about boot-strapping: The New York Times claims that, when it comes to supporting Israel, “Every modern president has been, including Mr. Obama” has has done so. It has no basis for this statement other than its own fevered assurances. Obama’s affinity has been completely pro-Palestinian and anti-Israel. He took such a harsh line with Israel that he made demands more extreme than even the Palestinians were making (think: 1967 border).
And what does the Times mean when it says that Obama “outsourced his policy to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on settlements”? We know that Obama outsources most of his work (got to get in that golf), but the fact is that, when it came to settlements, he seemed to take a very personal role in trying to reverse decades of American and Israeli policy, and to humiliate Netanyahu to boot. Obama ended up with egg on his face. So if the New York Times meant by that statement that “Obama ended up with egg on his face when it came to dealing with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu,” I guess the statement is correct. Otherwise, it makes no sense, and its throwaway quality at the end of the editorial shows that the editors know that it makes no sense.
Okay, that was easy. If you have any fish packed tightly in a barrel, just hand me a gun. I’m ready.