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CURL: Amateur Hour (once again) starring Barack Obama
Awhile ago, my exasperated wife said: "Why don't you take a week off from bashing the president and write about something else? Anything else."
And I said: "I want to, but he won't let me. Just when you think he can't do anything more amateurish than he did last week, bam, he rises to the challenge again and hits new levels of futility and incompetence."
So it is yet again. And this first part is going to sound made-up, but I swear to you it is not.
During the 2008 campaign, Sen. Barack Obama traveled the country vowing to usher in an era of openness and transparency if elected president. Gone would be the bad old days of President George W. Bush running roughshod over the Constitution with his "enhanced interrogation techniques" and his surveillance via the Patriot Act. No, this community organizer from Chicago was going to end all that, tell The People what was really going on.
But, guess what? (Spoiler alert.) He didn't. In fact, in the past few months, a lowly computer specialist who worked for the CIA and the National Security Agency has divulged that not only did Mr. Obama not halt the programs he deemed egregious, but he also expanded them to a degree that few knew — with no hint of transparency.
So, the president came to the White House podium Friday (just before his eight-day vacation to tony Martha's Vineyard), to repledge an era of openness and transparency. See, he's been "reviewing" U.S. surveillance programs since he took office — mulling, weighing, philosophizing — about how to "rebalance." He's been working on it, people, but heavy stuff like this takes time, say, five years.
Anyway, out he came to announce that he finally had it all figured out. (Phew!) In fact, he had not one fix but four. The first: "Greater oversight, greater transparency." Brilliant. His mind really is sublime.
Second: Improve the public's confidence in surveillance of their phone calls, emails.
Third (and remember, I said this would sound made-up): "We can, and must, be more transparent." To that end, he's going to create a website "that will serve as a hub for further transparency." There, you can see real-time video of your neighbors and listen to their phone calls. (Just kidding: The site "will give Americans and the world the ability to learn more about what our intelligence community does and what it doesn't do, how it carries out its mission, and why it does so."
And fourth, of course, transparency. (Kidding again: "We're forming a high-level group of outside experts to review our entire intelligence and communications technologies.") He didn't say it was a blue-ribbon commission, but it's got blue ribbon written all over it. So there, America ... happy now?
With an era of openness and transparency finally ushered in, the president proceeded to call on reporters from a list of approved journalists worthy of asking a question at a press conference. One, who earlier in the day asked his Twitter followers what question he should pose to the president, said: "In the interest of transparency, can you tell us about these drone strikes that we've seen over the last couple of weeks in Yemen?" (Good question, tweepster!)
"I'm not going to discuss specific operations that have taken place," the president said.
"So you won't even confirm that we carried out drone strikes in Yemen?"
"I will not have a discussion about operational issues."
Annnnnnnnd, end transparency. That "era" lasted less than 30 minutes. For the record, a Google search of "yemen drone strike" pulls up 66,400,000 results, some with headlines like "Yemen officials: U.S. drone strike kills three militants," and "Suspected US drone strike kills 2 alleged militants in Yemen."
But amateur hour wasn't over, not by a long shot. Remember Candidate Obama pledging to talk to our adversaries, despots like Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad? Well, he not only hasn't done that, but now he has decided that he won't talk to leaders of countries that are, at the very least, strategic partners.
After Russian President Vladimir Putin allowed that, in the president's words, "hacker" to stay in his country, Mr. Obama canceled a separate side meeting with him after the Group of 20 summit: You were mean, and I'm giving you the silent treatment. Of course, he said there were many factors — like Russia being mean to gays.
But Friday, he went one step further in his naive punishment of Mr. Putin. Asked how he can solve world problems without a decent relationship with one of the world's near-superpowers, he said this of Russia's president: "He's got that kind of slouch, looking like the bored kid in the back of the classroom."
I told you all this would sound made-up. And there was much more, too much for another column on the president's fumbling buffoonery to hold.
And sorry, honey, I really would like to write about something. Maybe next week, since Mr. Obama's on Martha's Vineyard for a week — with 200 staffers! His use of taxpayer money really is — sorry, honey. I'll stop ...
• Joseph Curl covered the White House and politics for a decade for The Washington Times and is now editor of the Drudge Report. He can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @josephcurl.
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