- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 23, 2010


It was precisely Feb. 4, 2009, when I broke my self-imposed rule. It was not a very old rule, but it was serious. I had told myself I would not criticize the new president of the United States, Barack Obama - at least not for a few more months. But I slipped up. I could not completely swallow the fact that a community-action leader with almost no experience at the national level had become president. Complaints already were coming in from foreign parts. The Indians warned against his sticking his nose into their dispute with Pakistan over Kashmir, and to the president’s offer of talks with Iran, a low-level Iranian spokesman, Gholam Hossein Elham, replied: “This means Western ideology has become passive.”

Yet, since those halcyon days, the flubs and near disasters have gotten worse. They have gotten worse for two reasons. To begin with, there is the experience factor. President Obama is less experienced than any modern president, and I am not sure he has had any more experience than any president, period. Maybe Millard Fillmore was less experienced. I shall research the matter and report my findings.

Think about what this means. He has had no experience in foreign affairs, intelligence-gathering, the workings of the Treasury or any other aspect of the federal government. He does not know how to deal with a gigantic oil spill or, come to think of it, a small one. We are left thanking the stars in the heavens that this president has Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. at his side. Maybe we are even reassured that Chief of Staff Rahm Emanual is there, if one does not mind a sharp elbow in the ribs, and David Axelrod and someone by the name of Valerie Jarrett can be counted on to keep watch while this president flies off to foreign parts.

Second, Mr. Obama is wedded to the politics of the far left. He thinks because there is someone further to the left of him that means he is a moderate. But as things stand, there are people to the right of him, too. As I see it, at least three-quarters of the American people are to the right of him, possibly more. These people matter. It probably was imprudent of him to go to the baseball game last weekend, even if the Chicago White Sox were playing. And the next day, he should not have played golf, even if Joe Biden came along. Not even if Saul Alinsky wrote about golf back in the 1960s.

There is something very dated about the ideology this president takes so seriously. The progressives thought they were electing a forward-looker. They were getting an antiques merchant. In fact, they are antiques merchants. Even the Chinese and the Indians think Mr. Obama is backward. The Canadians’ view of the world is light-years beyond him. Even his supporters are beginning to talk. The president is dangerously out of touch, and he is incompetent.

The other day, Mortimer Zuckerman wrote an ominous piece in U.S. News & World Report. He cited widespread talk in Britain of the end of our “special relationship” with that country. He cited French President Nicolas Sarkozy speaking ill of Mr. Obama, and he noted Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s contempt for a number of our president’s views. Mr. Zuckerman went on to cite problems that the president had had with China; Middle Eastern leaders, particularly the king of Saudi Arabia; Turkey and Brazil. Of course, in his “tour de horizon,” he mentioned Mr. Obama’s problems with Cuba, Iran and North Korea. Then he said it: “A critical mass of influential people in the world” are “no longer dazzled by his rock star personality and there is a sense that there is something amateurish and even incompetent about how Obama is managing U.S. power.”

I have not always been an admirer of Mr. Zuckerman’s, but there is something solid about his piece. He wrote it clearly worried about the path that lies ahead, and when he spoke of that “critical mass of influential people,” he knew what he was writing about. This is why official Washington is taking a fresh look at Joe Biden. They note his gaffable presence, but they clearly are fortified by his presence. After all, who else is there - Mr. Axelrod, Mr. Emanuel and Ms. Jarrett?

R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr. is the founder and editor-in-chief of the American Spectator and an adjunct scholar at the Hudson Institute. His new book is “After the Hangover: The Conservatives’ Road to Recovery” (Thomas Nelson, 2010).

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