“Memo to the President: Words Matter,” writes John Steele Gordon at Commentary:
If President Obama had spent more than two years in the Senate before taking a leave of absence to run for president, he might have come to understand just how important “nuance” is in diplomacy, how every word spoken by the president is parsed and weighed in chancelleries around the world. He might know how small slips can have big consequences. George Bush was savagely criticized after 9/11 for using the word “crusade,” without regard for how sensitive Muslims are about that word. In 1962 President Kennedy was very careful to call his deployment of the navy to prevent more missiles being delivered to Cuba, a “quarantine,” rather than a “blockade,” for the latter is, explicitly, an act of war.
This would seem to be more evidence that the Obama presidency is in trouble. That “senior officials” in the White House are willing to talk under a cloak of anonymity, about how the president blew it diplomatically and the most liberal major newspaper in the country to make a big deal of it, is not good news for the president.
Beginning with his headline, “Fifty Shades of Red” onward, Tom Maguire of the Just One Minute blog is having fun with the rubes at the Gray Lady and the JournoList:
Obama lost the nuance? The deepest thinker and shiniest star on the Presidential Christmas tree? C’mon, he knows more than his advisors. They should be listening to him, and clearly they have missed the nuance.
It’s interesting, not to say unnerving, that today (if not back when he said it) the Times can find senior officials distancing themselves from the president. Who wants to board a ship the rats are abandoning?
And how the mighty have fallen — my goodness, back in the day Matt Yglesias wrote an article praising Obama’s bold, creative Foreign Policy by Gaffe:
The Accidental Foreign Policy
How an early gaffe and an excruciatingly long primary season helped Barack Obama find a distinctive voice on foreign affairs
Barack Obama has always been an independent thinker. He of course opposed the war in Iraq, and he’s built a team of national-security advisers who disproportionately took the same, then-unpopular antiwar view. But as a presidential candidate articulating what he might do in office, his real break with convention may have begun with a gaffe.
Matt was not writing for the Onion or even the Daily Currant at the time. Any day now!
In any case, Obama’s distinctive voice, coupled with his self-infatuation with it, has led to other bold foreign policy strokes. Late last summer (just a few weeks after his Syrian belly flop) Obama decided that, law and practice notwithstanding, Egypt was no longer an ally. And in 2008 did Candidate Obama really favor an undivided Jerusalem. Move on.
Soon enough the world’s foreign ministers will ask with one voice — Is that the President of the United States speaking, or did someone switch to the Comedy Channel?
Or perhaps that venerable old stand-up comedy show, Evening at the Improv. As Ed Morrissey writes at Hot Air, “Obama may have ad-libbed us into a war:”
In case you’re wondering, this is the same Constitutional-scholar, brightest-guy-in-the-room, I’m-my-own-best-advisor President that assured Americans that he would bring “smart power” into American diplomacy. How smart? For a while, none of these people bothered to run to the New York Times to backpedal immediately — because they thought it had worked. Assad didn’t use chemical weapons for months, and they congratulated themselves for their tough stand.
Now that the red line has blown up in their face, however, “senior advisors” can’t wait to run anonymously to the Gray Lady to explain that it was all a big mistake. Daniel Halper notices this, too:
But if the tough rhetoric “succeeded” for a time, it appears to have backfired in the long-run. Because Syria has now apparently used chemical weapons, and President Obama is not willing to do anything about it.
Obama, though, seems inclined to at least explore intervention as a means to shore up his damaged credibility, rather than just admit that the “red line” rhetoric was empty from the beginning. It might be the first time that a President has ad-libbed us into a war, although let’s hope it doesn’t happen at all.