Some of us who don’t belong to the Beltway’s elite read Barack Obama early on. He is rigidly ideological, he knows nothing about national security, and will be bullied by other, more experienced world leaders. Some inside the nation’s political sinkhole did too — Hillary Clinton’s “3 AM” commercial argued that Obama wasn’t ready to be the leader of the free world. I’m no fan of Clinton’s, and honestly she isn’t any more prepared to lead than Obama was, but that ad was dead-on.

National Journal’s Ron Fournier has finally figured Obama out, and written a grimly enjoyable column about how Vlad Putin is now the big man on the world’s campus.

After confessing that he’s less interested in Putin’s motivations than the principles that Putin is flouting, Obama said the Russian wants to control events in Ukraine. “That’s not new,” he said, spelling out a policy that effectively cedes Crimea to Putin with no further consequences and threatens actions if he moves deeper into Ukraine or into NATO nations.

“So I think that will be a bad choice for President Putin to make,” Obama said, “but, ultimately, he is the president of Russia, and he’s the one who’s going to be making that decision. He just has to understand there’s a choice to be made here.”

In other words, the bully has stolen your lunch money without a fight and now you’re telling him, “It would be a bad choice to take one more penny from anybody in this lunchroom, Buster!”

That next penny is probably eastern Ukraine, where there are ethnic Russians, rumors of Spetznaz operatives stirring up trouble, and next to which Putin is said to have amassed as many as 80,000 troops and armor. Ukraine’s military was hollowed out by its ousted pro-Russian president and is no match for Russia’s. The bully is smiling that malevolent smile they always put on when they’re about to do something awful and no one can stop them. Who is going to stand up to him?

[C]aring little about the motivation of his rivals seems to be a trait of Obama’s leadership that has hurt him in Congress, where the opposition party is stubbornly opposed to his agenda. Rather than understanding why the GOP is moving rightward, helping its leadership tame party extremists (as he must do with the Left), and finding issues that help both sides claim victories, Obama surrendered to polarization and gridlock. Actually, he is a champion of it.

“I won,” remember?