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Sunday, April 19, 2009

Obama Needs To Stop Hiding From The Presidency

Bloomberg news reports the following statement by Barack Obama in his speech at the Summit of the Americas, after Daniel Ortega had spent an hour ripping into the U.S. (emphasis mine):
“You can’t blame the U.S. for every problem in this hemisphere,” Obama said. “I am very grateful that President Ortega didn’t blame me for things that happened when I was three months old.”
I'm not going to focus on the refusal to defend his country, or to give it back to the suppressors of freedom such as Chavez and Ortega. Many others are proving that point.

The words which jumped out at me were Obama's hope that he wouldn't be blamed "for things that happened when I was three months old." That phrase is similar to the analysis Obama used to excuse his friendship, and political coordination early in his career, with domestic terrorist bomber William Ayers. Obama excused the relationship because Ayers' crimes were committed when Obama was just eight years old (emphasis mine):
"Mr. Ayers is somebody who lives in Chicago. He's a professor at the University of Chicago, Illinois, teaches education, and he engaged in these despicable acts 40 years ago when I was 8 years old. I served on a board with him."
There is something truly bizarre about this reasoning. If something happened when Obama was not of a certain age (we know it is at least eight years old, although we don't know where the line is drawn) then he accepts no responsibility. That is fine if one is talking about personal responsibility only. Obama is no more responsible on a personal level for what others did, be it yesterday or 30 years ago, than anyone else.

But Obama no longer is "anyone else." Obama is the President and bears the burden of dealing with accusations and attacks on this country related to events which did not take place on his watch.

If Obama agreed with the attacks by Ortega, Chavez and others, then Obama should have had the guts to say so, and dealt with the domestic consequences. That would have been brave. If Obama didn't agree, then he should have had the guts to stand up for his country then and there, in front of the tyrants. That would have been even braver.

The one option no longer available to President Obama is to hide behind his narcissistic view of his own personal responsibility. That is cowardly. The presidency is bigger than the person, and only a big person realizes and accepts that fact.

UPDATE: Ann Althouse has a video compliation of Obama's use of the "I was just 8 years old" excuse during the campaign (h/t Small Dead Animals).

UPDATE No. 2: Some Obama supporters either misunderstand, or deliberately minimize, the nature of Chavez. This from Washington Monthly:
To be sure, Chavez is an odious figure. But he's also the twice-elected head of state of a large South American country with 30 million people. GOP rhetoric notwithstanding, there's no downside to improving our relations with the country's leadership.
This type of minimization is ignorant. Chavez routinely arrests, and has street mobs beat, opposition supporters and candidates. Just days ago, on Chavez's express order, a leading opposition leader was arrested on trumped up "corruption" charges. Almost simultaneously, Chavez had the national legislature, which he controls, create a new governmental structure to run the capital, so as to displace the elected mayor of Caracas, who happened to be a member of the opposition. Read these articles, among many, before ignoring that Chavez systematically has destroyed the democratic nature of Venezuela, and is a brutal thug: Chavez accused of behaving like 'dictator' ahead of elections, Chavez foes face intimidation ahead of vote.

Obama disgraced himself and his country by carrying on with Chavez like long lost friends. If Obama wanted to open a dialogue with Chavez, he could have done so in a way that did not demonstrate an affection for the man. By creating such a visual embrace, Obama abandoned the people of Venezuela, who naively may have hoped that Obama would stand by their side, rather than with the soon-to-be President-for-Life. See my prior post, Obama Throws Venezuelans Under The Bus.

Yeah: Two ladies agree with me - And So It Goes In Shreveport and Sister Toldjah.
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  1. Good points but I have to disagree a little bit. Obama doesn't hide behind his narcissistic view of life because he's a coward. He really is a narcissist.

    In his mind, everything is about him. Attack his country - he doesn't care as long as you don't mean it as a personal swipe at him.

    That's not cowardice. He's really that shallow.

  2. Nice brushoff from President Obama. Who will remember Ortega’s 50 minutes of anti-American bloviating, other than the fact it was 50 minutes of anti-American bloviating? On the other hand, people are likely to remember Obama’s pithy response about being three months old when the events in question happened. (By extension, most Americans alive today were too young then to bear any blame now.) It’s really the perfect comeback.

    Nice quip also that “It was 50 minutes long.”

  3. Having lived in Europe for 2 years and Venezuela for 3 years, I have experienced anti-Americanism first hand. I've also experienced pro-American sentiment, so I see it more a reflection on the person than on me. That said, the idea that "50 minutes long" is a nice quip is asinine. The "blame" that Ortega/Chavez seek to assign to the US is mostly a delusional fiction concocted by the populist left to get state control. It is akin to listening silently to someone saying the Jews deserved XYZ because of their Zionist conspiracy. There are times when silence and inaction, however superficially clever, is morally repugnant.

  4. It seems to me that he's more concerned with his personal popularity than with America's reputation.

  5. Great job improving America's standing in the world, Barry!

  6. Great article, but why are we conservatives forever giving GWBush a free pass. In his first term, GWB had ample opportunity to get rid of Chavez, when -- during a popular and peaceful uprising -- Chavez was forced to depart Venezuela for a time. What did the Bush Administration do during this golden window of opportunity? Sat on its hands. Despicable passivity. No free pass here. In a sense, Obama has inherited a mess from Bush when it comes to Venezuela. Unfortunately, President O is in wayyyyyyyy over his head.

  7. You've hit upon the most disturbing aspect of Obama's approach overseas. As President and head of government, he's entitled to change US policies -- or try to change them. As President and head of state, however, he embodies the nation and every word he speaks abroad is a word spoken by the United States. Ortega and any other foreign leader is entitled to take his words in that light. So, it is of no consequence how old Obama was when this or that occurred or whether he had any personal connection to events that preceded his Presidency. It would have been an equally "pithy brushoff" of Obama had said something like, "With due respect to President Ortega's view of history, we don't need to relive past disagreements. We need to cooperate for the future."


  8. The thing that bothers me about the Washington Monthly quote is that they say "the country's leadership" as if a country's current leader is always worth diplomacy (appeasement just before wwii ring a bell?)....for the past "8 years," I doubt anyone on the left would hesitate to tell any foreigner that GWB does not represent them or most of the country. It's pretty obvious that Chavez is an election- and press-fixer, but even if he wasn't, the denial of freedom to any groups or individuals in a nation who do nothing but peacefully dissent, does not deserve the attention of first-world leaders and the kindness of personal respect. Sorry, but the handshake/fistbump/conversation/book gift, does not constitute "a diplomatic outreach."