- The Washington Times - Monday, August 25, 2014

It’s a little early for the candidates of ‘16 to start calling each other names, but they’re loosening tongues, limbering voices and auditioning invective, anyway. Rand Paul calls Hillary Clinton “a war hawk,” eager to get America into another war in the Middle East, and Miss Hillary sends out a surrogate to remind everyone that the senator from Kentucky is a man of “fringe, isolationist vision.”

War hawks and isolationists are fascinating critters, to be sure, but everyone has to pay close attention just now to the terror at hand, the threat posed by the Islamic State, which everyone calls ISIS for the initials of one of its former names. But President Obama wants everyone not to worry. Ben Rhodes, his deputy national security adviser, was dispatched to say the president has got the barbarians’ number. Stay cool, everyone. (If only.)

The White House is monitoring everything closely, he says, and if ISIS gives any hint of plotting against the United States, “we’ll be prepared to deal with that as necessary.” The president will put aside his putter, sprint in from the back nine and make a speech.

He’ll remind all that everyone is “appalled” by the beheading of Jim Foley, which “shocked the conscience of the world.” Who knew “the world” had a conscience? The “world” has stood by throughout history while barbarians like ISIS have visited cruelty, savagery and sadistic mayhem on the planet.

The president, taking on the robes of a theologian, says that “no just God would stand for what they did, and for what they do every single day.” Who knew that a mere president, important as a president may be, so easily monitors the mind of God? (Has the National Security Agency, which got caught earlier reading Angela Merkel’s mail, expanded its reach into the great beyond?) But there’s no need to panic at the feet of the barbarians. “People like this ultimately fail,” Mr. Obama says.

This would have been small solace to Jim Foley as he waited for the barbarian’s knife. A wiser theologian than the president would understand that God helps those who help themselves, guided by faith.

This president’s reassurance sounds like “more mush from the wimp,” as a Boston newspaper famously described reassurances from Jimmy Carter in an eon swiftly fading behind us. Mr. Obama says that “one thing we can all agree on is that a group like [ISIS] has no place in the 21st century.” ISIS actually looks real enough, confident of its place in the new century, where it can fester and grow like a runaway carbuncle unless an exceptional nation comes along to demolish it. Words are cheap, and the president buys them by the kilo, deeply discounted.

Mr. Paul, who doesn’t have Barack Obama’s gift for assembling words in eloquent order, nevertheless appears to share the Obama vision of a president who feels a duty to relax and take it easy on bad guys. Mr. Paul worries that if the Democrats nominate “a war hawk” like Hillary, it would set up “a transformational election.” But a war hawk who gets a telephone call from Benghazi at 3 o’clock in the morning does not go back to sleep.

The senator thinks he scares Democrats. “Were I to run [for president],” he told an interviewer on “Meet the Press,” there’s “gonna be a lot of independents and even some Democrats who say, ‘You know what? We are tired of war. We’re worried that Hillary Clinton will get us involved in another Middle Eastern war, because she’s so gung-ho.’”

But war-weariness is no justification for dereliction of duty. Generations before us were weary of war, too. George Washington crossed the Delaware in the ice and snow when he could have checked into the Holiday Inn for a hot shower and a nap, but he didn’t. FDR could have played a wheelchair round at Congressional Country Club on Dec. 8, 1941, and he didn’t. War-weariness is for wimps when there’s an enemy at the gate.

Rand Paul is a small breath of fresh air in Washington, surprising and unpredictable in his views. But he sees the world as he wishes it were, and if he looks at Hillary Clinton and sees a war hawk he hardly has the vision of a man worthy of the White House. We’re all weary of war, weary of sacrifice and weary of thinking about it. The barbarians of ISIS, by whatever name, are not weary of war, or sacrifice or of making war against America. It’s all they’re thinking about. This is no time for a presidential nap.

Wesley Pruden is editor emeritus of The Washington Times.

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