- - Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Obama wears out the South Lawn looking for answers

It was one of the most comic presidential moments in recent American history: President Obama’s solitary walk across the South Lawn of the White House. Supposedly, it made history.

I would put it right up there with President Clinton’s solitary walk down Normandy beach in 1994. The sun is setting. The great man stands alone (in his baggy suit). The bluffs made historic by our soldiery in World War II are on one side of the famous draft dodger, and the sea dotted with warships is on his other side. Bill becomes reflective. Then, ever so perceptibly, he panics. Three network cameras are whirring, dozens of photographers’ cameras are click-clicking, and Bill has completely drawn a blank as to what he is to do next. He glances down in the sand and catches himself. He espies the stones that have been carefully laid in his path by his clever advance personnel and, aha, he falls to his knees. He arranges them in a cross. He composes himself as in prayer. Perhaps he is thinking of a callipygian rump he glimpsed half an hour ago. Surely, his advance men had the sense to get her name. At any rate, the columnist Maureen Dowd captured the scene for The New York Times before she, too, went over to the dark side.

As for our community organizer who is the acting president of the United States, he did not actually galumph across the South Lawn in total solitude. He left his bloodthirsty advisers back in the White House and strutted for 45 minutes with his chief of staff, Denis McDonough. Moreover, no advance team left stones in his path. His walk was not that well planned. Actually, it was pretty muggy out there on the lawn, but the president and his chief of staff kept right on trucking. Back at the White House, all of his advisers, save perhaps for senior adviser Valerie Jarrett, thought his mind was made up. He was going to attack Syria without a congressional vote. Secretary of State Jean-Francois Kerry had even given the most bellicose speech in his whole life. Yet upon finishing his walk, a sweaty Prophet Obama dialed up his advisers and told them the attack would await Congress’ leisurely return from holiday. The next day, he told the nation. Not even an early-morning bath would dissuade him.

Syrian President Bashar Assad was exultant. He declaimed that Syria “is capable of confronting any external aggression.” Within hours, those of his elite military units that had hunkered down expecting the worst had returned to their strongholds, for instance, on Mt. Kassioun, where they resumed their artillery attacks on the rebels. The Americans might never arrive. Dunya TV, a state television channel broadcasting content roughly comparable to that of Iraq’s Baghdad Bob, began reporting that two U.S. warships had defected, its crews in a panic over Syria’s sudden military might.

What we have just seen is the work of an utter amateur trying to be the president of the United States. Barack Obama ran for the presidency promising to be the perfect multilateralist president. No longer would America go it alone. He would form a worldwide coalition before taking military action. As a candidate, he blabbered on about colonialism as though the Western world were thirsting for African and South American colonies. He denounced intervention in foreign countries, especially American intervention. Now he is advocating what amounts to unilateralism and intervening in foreign lands with no particular purpose. He wants to hurt Mr. Assad not much more. He is a hypocrite, but on behalf of what, I cannot say.

Mr. Obama operates from no grand strategy. What he will do next no one can say. He is a total amateur, and he is going to be president for almost 40 more months. At least we can count on many more great moments of presidential comedy.

R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr. is founder and editor in chief of the American Spectator and an adjunct scholar at the Hudson Institute.