- The Washington Times - Friday, January 1, 2010

OPINION/ANALYSIS:

The bad news for Barack Obama is that everyone, even here in Baghdad on the Bay, Ground Zero of Dreamland, says he must improve his performance in the new year. The good news for Barack Obama is that there’s lots of room for improvement.

The president graded himself the other day, telling Oprah that he thinks he deserves a B-plus for his first year, and if he gets ObamaCare through Congress, he should get another full grade. He may be the only man in America who thinks he’s an A-minus president. But Mr. Obama grew up in the era of grade inflation, and he no doubt aced his course work in Self-Esteem 101.

California, as every Californian will tell you, is the origin of the fads and fancies that inevitably spread across the continent; San Francisco is where the Pied Piper of Southside Chicago might have led the cult to a suitable jumping-off place. This is where the true believers of the left exude the most noxious fumes. Where better to spend Christmas, er, the Holiday, with all the fruits and nuts to plumb the depths of what remains of ObamaLove. Nagging doubt, if not yet disillusionment, lurks in unexpected nooks and crannies. Everyone here expected to be married to his plumber, electrician or mechanic by the end of year 0001 A.O. (anno obamanie). Man would make love, not war; all disease (including cancer, high cholesterol, Christianity and unregistered guns) would have been banished; every bathhouse would be crowded again; every Guantanamo prisoner rehabilitated and settled with 40 acres and a mule; the globe would be cooling; immigration abuses resolved; and best of all, the works of the evil Texas cowboy would be but a distant, fading memory.

Didn’t happen, except for the global cooling, which turns out to be the work of a Force greater than even Barack Obama. Everyone here works to keep the chatter confined to the latest hot movie, restaurant, art gallery or other shrines to the immediate gratification that is the all-consuming goal of the Good Life. When a visitor from the real world introduces the name of the president and his works, there’s an embarrassed mumble, shuffle and shrug, and the embarrassee darts away to look for a carrot stick to stir in the avocado dip. A skeptic with a conservative bent has never had such Christmas fun.

But the season, like the year, has been no fun for the president, who is beginning to look a lot like George W. Bush to the Nancy Pelosi red-hots. Even the Detroit underwear bomber stinks in these precincts. Suspicion grows that Mr. Obama’s attempt to love-bomb the Muslims in the Middle East into clasping the hand of friendship is not working. Events have mocked the frilly Valentine the president dispatched to Arabia in his inaugural address: “To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect … we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.”

A hail of insulting sticks and stones came flying back at him. A spokesman for Ayatollah Ali Khamenei sneered the ultimate insult, that the new president was no better than his predecessor: “Obama is the hand of Satan in a new sleeve. The Great Satan now has a black face.” This might have deterred Harry Truman or Ronald Reagan, but Mr. Obama merely ordered more love-bombing. He begged for engagement “grounded in mutual respect.” He wrote love letters, one to Khamenei himself, full of schoolboy pleading as if begging someone he met on the Internet to go to the senior prom with him. When it became clear that the Ahmadinejad regime had stolen the national election, there was nary a discouraging word from the White House.

Soon it was off to Cairo for the promised Arabian Apology Tour, to admit that America was at fault for all the misunderstandings and hurt feelings. He promised America would do better. He even stopped off in Saudi Arabia to bow deeply to the king. If he thought this would bring the terrorists to the mourner’s bench, he didn’t accomplish anything. Neither did his warning to Americans not to “leap to conclusions” after a Muslim officer drunk on sentiments of jihad killed 13 innocents at Fort Hood, Texas.

What is abundantly clear at the end of Obama Year One is that the radical Muslims who have sworn to kill us still want to kill us. Mr. Obama imagined his honeyed words would invite an unclenched response. All he got last week, obvious even to a San Francisco Democrat, was an answer in a terrorist’s dirty underwear.

• Wesley Pruden is editor emeritus of The Washington Times.