- The Washington Times - Friday, April 11, 2008

Barack Obama knows about audacity. He learned it from the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, perfected it in Chicago and dazzles Democrats from Sioux City to Skagway and smaller places between.

Fresh from his triumphs with the Audacity of Hope, he’s eager to aim the Audacity of Bloviation at Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who dreams of making a Hiroshima of Tel Aviv. Well, why not? His audacity has kids, babes, Hollywood stars, Manhattan ladies who lunch, celebrities of stage, screen and old-time radio and even Colin Powell in thrall. How could a mere Persian rug merchant resist him?

Continuing to play games with words, Mr. Obama says he wants to make a “diplomatic surge” with talks with Iran to stabilize the situation in Iraq. This is odd, because on the one hand he insists the “surge” that everybody else recognizes as working has been a bust. Now he wants the diplomats to emulate a bust.

There’s something of Democratic surge in meddling, too, though we must audaciously hope that it is not coordinated. On the very day that Mr. Obama went surging through Iraq and Iran, the known world (or at least the worlds of Arabia and a precinct or maybe two in southwest Georgia) was rocked by the news that The Hon. Jimmy Carter would soon be on his way to Syria to break bread and nibble on sheep’s eyes with Khaled Meshal, the exiled leader of Hamas, which the State Department regards as one of the foremost terrorist organizations in the world. Like Khaled Meshal, Jimmy Carter will be a guest of President Bashar al-Assad, though they won’t necessarily share the same rug. Mr. Jimmy will be the first Western leader of his rank to greet the terrorist chief.

“It’s about par for the course from President Carter, demonstrating a lack of judgment typical of what he does,” says John Bolton, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. “To go to Syria to visit Hamas at this point is just an ill-timed, ill-advised decision on his part.”

Ibrahim Hooper, the spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, was, as you might expect, euphoric. He says Mr. Carter’s efforts demonstrate that he’s “a true partner” of peace. “I think President Carter would only undertake such a mission if he believed that something could be achieved in terms of peace and reconciliation in the region.” Any friend of Hamas is a friend of “peace,” as suicide bombers define “peace.”

Jimmy Carter’s adventures no longer agitate anyone very much, but the prospect of Barack Obama — green, nave and inexperienced in the ways of the world beyond the south side of Chicago — rushing off to charm despots and dictators with smooth talk sends shivers down the backbones, such as they may be, of everybody in a pair of striped pants. Summits look like fun to prospective presidents, with flags flying from the front fenders of long black limousines and self-important aides scurrying about with learned papers and cold coffee. Older men have learned to be wary.

“Summits have all too often been a gamble, the experience nerve-wracking and the results unsatisfactory,” said Dean Acheson, who was Harry S. Truman’s secretary of State. He recalled the advice given to Woodrow Wilson on the eve of the first Wilson journey to Europe: “The moment President Wilson sits down at the council table with these prime ministers and foreign secretaries, he has lost all the power that comes from distance and detachment. He becomes merely a negotiator dealing with other negotiators.” When the quarterback, i.e., the president, fumbles, the goal line is open behind him.

Sending the inexperienced Barack Obama, the ultimate salesman armed only with a smile, guile and a shoeshine, off to parley with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Kim Jong-il or even the man in charge in Moscow and Beijing is enough to send shivers down anyone’s spine. Sen. Obama can’t wait to try out the Audacity of Bloviation that has worked so well on gullible Democrats at home. This is the second time he’s talked about how he’s eager to substitute easy verbosity for hard-won experience. We must have the audacity to hope for better than that.

Wesley Pruden is editor emeritus of The Times.


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