Barack Obama’s critics are loud enough and persistent enough, but maybe we’ve been baying at the wrong moon.
It’s not the president’s ideology, his arrogance, his attention-deficit disorder, his endless deference to alien religious faith and his contempt for the faith of those close to home (or even his backswing) that’s what’s wrong with the man in charge of the government. It’s the sheer incompetence of the leader and his gang.
This is the gang that can’t shoot straight, eager to stifle or soften the First, Second, Fourth and Fifth Amendments and ever ready to stumble abroad with timidity in the face of governments that mean us ill. In the circumstances, maybe incompetence is not necessarily a bad thing. They could be doing a lot more harm if they actually knew how to do what they’re trying to do. The Obama legion can’t figure out which is the business end of the gun.
The spectacle of a 29-year-old computer geek armed with a laptop and a credit card racing across the hemispheres, eluding the FBI, the CIA, the TSA, the IRS and the rest of the alphabet soup available to the president, taunting the entire U.S. Government to catch him if it can, has much of the rest of the world applauding, cheering and laughing.
This is the entertainment nobody has seen since Bonnie and Clyde redefined the job of bank examiner on the front pages of 80 years ago. This is also something new in our history, the world laughing at the ineptitude of the United States. Only Mr. Obama, who set out years ago to cut America down to a size to suit the third world, can be pleased.
Nobody roots for the fuzz, and a petition to the White House to grant a full pardon to Edward Snowden had collected 111,000 signatures by mid-day Monday, seeking “a full, free, and absolute pardon for any crimes he has committed or may have committed related to blowing the whistle on secret [National Security Administration] surveillance programs,” and calling him “a national hero.”
The petition, to the White House “We, the People” website, has earned an official White House response, even if all the petitioners can expect is the usual argle-bargle, full of mush and slurry, signifying nothing.
A national hero Edward Snowden is clearly not, but Mr. Obama and his administration have earned every guffaw, even if the rest of us haven’t. Almost nobody, not even his media acolytes, any longer cuts the president slack or even grants him a B-minus for effort. He can blame George W. Bush, but nobody’s any longer listening to that.
The manhunt for Mr. Snowden led, with a whimper, to the international transit lounge at the Moscow airport, with the White House begging the Russians for help, like the help it ignored when Moscow tried to warn Washington about the radicalization of one of the brothers plotting to bomb the Boston marathon.
Time magazine quotes an unnamed U.S. official complaining that Mr. Snowden, running for his freedom and maybe his life, had chosen unpleasant protectors — China, Russia, Cuba, Venezuela and Ecuador. “His failure to criticize these regimes suggests that his true motive throughout has been to injure the national security of the United States, not to advance Internet freedom and free speech.”
His pursuers were expecting a lot from a man on the run, to stop in mid-flight to critique, perhaps in an op-ed for the newspapers, the regimes giving him a hand. You don’t have to admire Edward Snowden or what he did to be outraged by his revelations that Mr. Obama’s government is running a secret surveillance system that would have been the envy of the old Soviet Union. We don’t yet know all of what the government is up to with that, but it’s a fair guess that most of it is bad.
This is the government that couldn’t — or wouldn’t — protect its diplomats in Benghazi, and then lied about it. This is the government that either instructed the IRS or enabled it to abuse taxpayers with the “wrong” political views. This is the government that set the hounds at the Justice Department to pursue journalists who were getting too close to information the government doesn’t want anyone to know about.
Mr. Obama himself reassures us that everybody means well, it was all about mistakes, with no intent to do bad, just the honest incompetence of careless people. Some reassurance.
• Wesley Pruden is editor emeritus of The Washington Times.