Hitting the Ejector Seat on the Clown Car Presidency

"A consensus assessment of the past week's events could easily form around Oliver Hardy's famous lament to the compulsive bumbler Stan Laurel: 'Here's another nice mess you've gotten us into!'", Daniel Henninger writes in the Wall Street Journal on "The Laurel and Hardy Presidency." Though that's an unfortunate shot at a pair of venerated performers from Hollywood's golden era,  professional comedians who worked extremely hard to be deliberately funny. Humor, both of the slip-on-a-banana-peel and gallows variety, is merely the unintentional byproduct of Mr. Obama and his hapless administration:

The past week was a perfect storm of American malfunction. Colliding at the center of a serious foreign-policy crisis was Barack Obama's manifest skills deficit, conservative animosity toward Mr. Obama, Republican distrust of his leadership, and the reflexive opportunism of politicians from Washington to Moscow.

It is Barack Obama's impulse to make himself and whatever is in his head the center of attention. By now, we are used to it. But this week he turned himself, the presidency and the United States into a spectacle. We were alternately shocked and agog at these events. Now the sobering-up has to begin.

The world has effectively lost its nominal leader, the U.S. president. Is this going to be the new normal? If so—and it will be so if serious people don't step up—we are looking at a weakened U.S president who has a very, very long three years left on his term.

The belief by some that we can ride this out till a Reagan-like rescue comes in the 2016 election is wrong. Jimmy Carter's Iranian hostage crisis began on Nov. 4, 1979. One quick year later, the American people turned to Ronald Reagan. There will be no such chance next year or the year after that—not till November 2016.

Henninger adds that “The libertarian lurch on foreign policy among some Republicans is a dead end. Libertarians understand markets. But left alone, the global market in aggression won't clear. Like a malign, untreated tumor, it will grow. You can't program it to kill only non-Americans. The world's worst impulses run by their own logic. What's going to stop them now?”

But perhaps the libertarian lurch on foreign policy among some Republicans is caused by a very different kind of dead end. In his review of Lewis Sorley’s 1999 book, A Better War: The Unexamined Victories and the Final Tragedy of America's Last Years in Vietnam, Orrin Judd wrote:

In 1972, with the Viet Cong essentially eliminated as an effective fighting force, the North Vietnamese mounted a massive Easter offensive, but this too was decisively defeated.

Having failed to achieve their aims militarily, the North Vietnamese turned their attention to the Paris Peace Talks.  They were extraordinarily fortunate to be dealing with Henry Kissinger and Richard Nixon, two opportunists of the worst sort, who were willing to negotiate a deal which left the North with troops in South Vietnam.  When President Thieu balked at this and threatened to scuttle the talks, the North backed off of the whole deal and Nixon ordered the 1972 Christmas bombings of Hanoi.  For eleven days, waves of B-52's, each carrying 108 500-pound and 750-pound bombs, pummeled the North.  For perhaps the only time during the entire War, the North was subjected to total war, and they were forced to return to the negotiating table.  Sorley cites Sir Robert Thompson's assessment that :

“In my view, on December 30, 1972, after eleven days of those B-52 attacks on the Hanoi area, you had won the war.  It was over.”

At that point, the Viet Cong had been destroyed, we had definitely won the insurgency phase of the War.  Additionally, the North had been defeated in the initial phase of conventional warfare, and had finally had the War brought home to them in a significant way.  Though the overall War was certainly not over, it was sitting there, just waiting to be won.

So what happened ?

Here’s how the Democrat Congress eviscerated South Vietnam immediately afterwards, because, you know, Nixon, maaaan: 

In 2009 shortly before Barack Obama took office, William McGurn, a former chief speechwriter for Bush #43, wrote in the Wall Street Journal, “Bush's Real Sin Was Winning in Iraq,” adding that “perhaps the most important reason for this unpopularity is the one least commented on. Here's a hint: It's not because of his failures. To the contrary, Mr. Bush's disfavor in Washington owes more to his greatest success. Simply put, there are those who will never forgive Mr. Bush for not losing a war they had all declared unwinnable.”

Naturally, President Bush’s successor could not allow that to stand.