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Ed Driscoll

Obama’s A Tough Guy — At Least With Fox News

October 23rd, 2009 - 4:57 pm

In the latest edition of his weekly column, Mark Steyn notes the enormous disparity between President Obama’s tough rhetoric with anyone in the US he perceives as being an enemy (how very bourgeois!) versus being a pushover with the rest of the world:

If you’re going to attack the press, you need a lightness of touch, not a ham-fisted crowbar such as the White House wielded Thursday, attempting to ban Fox from the pool interviews with the “pay czar.” Another bit of venerable Disraelian insouciance, on the scribblers of Fleet Street: “Today they blacken your character, tomorrow they blacken your boots.” For two years, the U.S. media have been polishing Obama’s boots, mostly with their drool, to a degree unprecedented in American public life. But now it’s time for the handful of holdouts to make with the Kiwi – or else.

At a superficial level, this looks tough. A famously fair-minded centrist told me the other day that he’d been taken aback by some of the near parodic examples of Leftie radicalism discovered in the White House in recent weeks. I don’t know why he’d be surprised. When a man has spent his entire adult life in the “community organized” precincts of Chicago, it should hardly be news that much of his Rolodex is made up of either loons or thugs. The trick is identifying who falls into which category. Anita Dunn, the Communications Director commending Mao Zedong as a role model to graduating high school students, would seem an obvious loon. But the point about Mao, as Charles Krauthammer noted, is that he was the most ruthless imposer of mass conformity in modern history: In Mao’s China, everyone wore the same clothes. So when Communications Commissar Mao Ze Dunn starts berating Fox News for not getting into the same Maosketeer costumes as the rest of the press corps, you begin to see why the Chairman might appeal to her as a favorite “political philosopher”.

So the troika of Dunn, Emanuel and Axelrod were dispatched to the Sunday talk shows to lay down the law. We all know the lines from “The Untouchables” – “the Chicago way,” don’t bring a knife to a gunfight – and, given the pay czar’s instant contract-gutting of executive compensation and the demonization of the health insurers and much else, it’s easy to look on the 44th president as an old-style Cook County operator: You wanna do business in this town, you gotta do it through me. You can take the community organizer out of Chicago, but you can’t take the Chicago out of the community organizer.

The trouble is it isn’t tough, not where toughness counts. Who are the real “Untouchables” here? In Moscow, it’s Putin and his gang, contemptuously mocking U.S. officials even when (as with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton) they’re still on Russian soil. In Tehran, it’s Ahmadinejad and the mullahs openly nuclearizing as ever feebler warnings and woozier deadlines from the Great Powers come and go. Even Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize is an exquisite act of condescension from the Norwegians, a dog biscuit and a pat on the head to the American hyperpower for agreeing to spay itself into a hyperpoodle. We were told that Obama would use “soft power” and “smart diplomacy” to get his way. Russia and Iran are big players with global ambitions, but Obama’s soft power is so soft it doesn’t even work its magic on a client regime in Kabul whose leaders’ very lives are dependent on Western troops. If Obama’s “smart diplomacy” is so smart that even Hamid Karzai ignores it with impunity, why should anyone else pay attention?

The strange disparity between the heavy-handed community organization at home and the ever cockier untouchables abroad risks making the commander in chief look like a weenie – like “President Pantywaist,” as Britain’s Daily Telegraph has taken to calling him.

The Chicago way? Don’t bring a knife to a gunfight? In Iran, this administration won’t bring a knife to a nuke fight. In Eastern Europe, it won’t bring missile defense to a nuke fight. In Sudan, it won’t bring a knife to a machete fight.

But, if you’re doing the overnight show on WZZZ-AM, Mister Tough Guy’s got your number.

And Obama’s rhetoric is also wreaking havoc with his supporters’ shtick. Chris Matthews can go on the air and scream, “The Group In This Country That Most Resembles The Taliban Is The Religious Right.” But as Mr. Obama has previously noted, he’s up for negotiating peace with the Taliban.

Fox News, on the other hand? He’ll nuke ‘em if he has to.

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