'Dominant' Obama

Today, the headlines were about “dominant” Obama. NBC described the moment Obama met Putin:

“It was very odd. Obama is treating him like he was greeting a doorman,” she said. … “This is a show of power,” she said. “In addition, he leans in toward Putin with his upper body, placing himself slightly into Putin’s personal zone. Notice Putin pulls back ever so slightly, which indicates that Obama has the upper hand.”


Some of you may be less impressed by these games, recalling, no doubt, the times on the grade-school playground when this ploy was used to show the bully just who was boss, usually with unfortunate results. This is greasy kid stuff, not the demeanor of presidents.

But before you laugh at Obama’s misery, before you even think of laughing, remember that the humiliation of Barack Obama is perforce a humiliation of America. Whether one likes it or not, he represents the country. And he’s turned it into a doormat.

That is the reason why AIPAC is supporting a Syrian operation, according to Steven Rosen at Foreign Policy: not because AIPAC hopes for something sensible in Syria, but simply to keep the sawdust from spilling out of Barack Obama any further. Don’t do it for Syria, he argues, do it to save the remaining prestige of the presidency of the United States:

AIPAC’s leaders, like other Americans, don’t see much to support on any side of the civil war in Syria, and in their hearts they would probably like to see both sides lose. But an American military strike that destroys Syria’s aircraft and helicopters, degrades its air defenses, and disables its runways, would be a benefit to Israel and the region — no matter who emerges victorious there.

And if, conversely, the red lines that have been declared by President Obama were to be wiped out by an isolationist Congress (much as British Prime Minister David Cameron was repudiated by Parliament), it could begin a wider U.S. retreat in the Middle East. It would certainly undermine the campaign to prevent Iran from completing its nuclear weapons program. Already, the Syrian regime and Hezbollah are boasting about a “historic American retreat,” and extremist elements from al Qaeda to North Korea must be rubbing their hands in glee. Without a strong United States, the world of our children will descend into a very dark void, because after America there is no one else waiting in line to assume leadership except these forces of evil and chaos.

If AIPAC sits on its hands, Obama might well lose this historic vote on Capitol Hill. If so, the Rand Paul/isolationist right and the antiwar left may celebrate, and conservative critics can blame it on Obama’s feckless leadership. But it will be a disaster for the Middle East and the world, and it may be impossible to contain the damage.


That’s like buying a lemon from a used-car salesman because you feel sorry for him, not because you want the car. The problem with that line of reasoning is that Obama may both fail to destroy Syria’s military capability — having said his efforts will be limited — and fail in a manner so disgusting and complete that the “Rand Paul/isolationist right and the antiwar left” will forever be enshrined in the pantheon of prophets like Cassandra.

What America needs is a new plan and revitalized leadership. Obama’s presidency — and American leadership — is on a declining curve. It’s terminal. He and the country are not losing prestige arithmetically; we’re losing it geometrically. It’s scary. The man makes a grand entrance into the summit dinner — “BBC reporter says Obama arrived alone for the G-20 dinner; did not walk in with Putin and other leaders” — and then gives the president of Russia the “dominant Obama” treatment. And he thinks this is smart? Yes, he does, and that’s the scary thing.

Obama must be under tremendous stress. Unlike you or I, he cannot go somewhere and hide. He can’t hang up a sign and go fishing. He is condemned to remain in the public eye, where he is constantly reminded — Putin will make sure of that just by being there — what a screwup he is. Every moment, every minute, every odious comparison. The flip side of a vain man is a delicate ego, and you can bet old Vlad is pouring salt on the wounds and rubbing it in with sandpaper.


In a declining curve, things don’t decline gradually. They collapse suddenly. A month ago nobody would have believed Obama’s state would have fallen so low. But Egypt and Syria started a cascade — and boom.

All he needs now is one more hard knock, and it will take more than AIPAC to put the sawdust back in him.

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