April 25, 2014

JAMES TARANTO: Russian Republican? Obama answers aggression with standoffishness.

“Accusing Russia of failing to live up to its commitments, President Barack Obama warned Moscow on Thursday that the United States has another round of economic sanctions ‘teed up’–even as he acknowledged those penalties may do little to influence Vladimir Putin’s handling of the crisis in Ukraine,” the Associated Press reports from Tokyo.

“Teed up”? What was it that somebody said about Putin playing chess while Obama plays golf?

If Obama took foreign policy as seriously as he takes golf, it would be an improvement. Taranto continues:

Conservatives have sometimes wished–jokingly or not–that Obama were as aggressive toward America’s antagonists as he is toward his own. With Putin, that wish appears to have come true. Maybe Baker is right and this is part of a grand strategy for containing Russia. But we suspect that’s wishful thinking too.

The president’s comments in Tokyo certainly don’t inspire confidence. “I understand that additional sanctions may not change Mr. Putin’s calculus,” he said at a press conference with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. “How well they change his calculus in part depends on not only us applying sanctions but also the cooperation of other countries.” . . .

This sounds very much like Obama’s approach to domestic politics since 2011, when the Republicans took the House. The president is lamenting his own ineffectuality and blaming it on others’ unwillingness to do things his way–which only reinforces the sense that he is ineffectual.

Nothing’s his fault. Of course, nothing’s his accomplishment either.

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