On June 3, 2008, a very junior Democratic Party senator and soon-to-be presidential nominee stepped to a microphone and to the world proclaimed, “Change is realizing that meeting today’s threats requires not just our firepower, but the power of our diplomacy — tough, direct diplomacy, where the president of the United States isn’t afraid to let any petty dictator know where America stands and what we stand for. We must once again have the courage and conviction to lead the free world.”
That was mighty bold talk for such a young, politically naive person whose sum total of foreign-policy experience to that date was having lived in a Third World country in his prepubescent years. Fast forward to 2009, and President Obama sends a secretary of state every bit the same sort of foreign-policy rookie as himself to deal with Russia.
Thinking she could carry the day diplomatically with charm and jocularity, then-Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton began her tenure as America’s senior foreign-policy official with the presentation of a gag gift. The world witnessed a chuckling Mrs. Clinton present what she said was a red plastic “reset” button to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov as a way of illustrating our intentions of “resetting” Russian-American relations, which had grown sour during the previous administration.
Well, Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton got their wish last month. Russian President Vladimir Putin “punched” that comic-relief “reset” button repeatedly, in essence “resetting” Russia’s foreign policy all the way back behind Josef Stalin’s mustache. This White House never seems to learn that its voices can’t be heard over the growling and clanking of tanks as the machinery rolls over the toes of the administration’s well-polished oxfords.