- - Thursday, April 9, 2015


President Obama, still the college professor at heart, doesn’t easily listen to criticism or argument. Only he knows what’s what, and he grades on a steep curve. When Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin critiqued the deal the president is about to strike with Iran, the president retorted that the governor didn’t know what he was talking about. He should “bone up” before he says anything, the president said.

Anyone who wants to be president shouldn’t question his judgment and his knowledge because only he knows enough to negotiate agreements with other nations. “And it would be a foolish approach to take, and, you know, perhaps Mr. Walker, after he’s taken some time to bone up on foreign policy, will feel the same way.”

Mr. Obama has been elected president twice, so he may think he’s entitled to judge anyone who aspires to his job, but he has apparently forgotten how little he knew about foreign affairs when he first ran for president in 2008. A lot of people think he hasn’t learned much since. He pretended to have knowledge in 2008 that it soon turned out he didn’t have, on the most important issue the nation faced, the unrelenting terror waged in Iraq and Afghanistan. He demonstrated his constructive criticism then by simply opposing everything George W. Bush proposed, and blaming him for every ill wind that blew.

His only idea was to bring all the troops home, to leave American interests in the Middle East to evil men. Retreat and something called “leading from behind” has been his only strategy since. The Islamic State, or ISIS, is on the march — sometimes abetted by Iran — and President Obama says not to worry, ISIS is only a “junior varsity,” hardly worthy of his concern. If need be, he will make another speech and the sound of his voice will soothe the savages, just as the sound of that voice soothes him.

Mr. Obama came to office with the thinnest foreign policy credentials of any president since Jimmy Carter, and now it is clear to all. He campaigned on a promise to restore America’s standing in the world, and promptly set about to “reset” relations with Russia. Even he can see how that worked. Vladimir Putin humiliated him over chemical weapons in Syria, where he drew one of his famous “red lines” and promptly retreated from it. He made a muddle of America’s interests in Egypt, backing the Muslim Brotherhood.

The American presidency is the toughest job in the world, and the cruel irony is that presidents come to that job with no ready experience. They must succeed with on-the-job training. Some learn more quickly than others. Some learn hardly at all. All of Mr. Obama’s experience was that of a talker and a kibitzer, first as a community organizer, then as a law professor, a state senator and finally as a freshman senator who didn’t finish his term.

Since none of the men and women who want to succeed him have presidential experience; they all must “bone up,” listen and try to learn something. Scott Walker knows as much — indeed, likely knows far more — about being president as Barack Obama did on his first day on that toughest job in the world. Mr. Walker, like the rest of us, is entitled to his opinion on Iran, and Iraq and Afghanistan, and every other problem on the presidential plate, and as a prospective candidate for president he has a responsibility to say what those opinions are. That’s how the rest of us, whether Mr. Obama likes it or not, take the measure of the man.

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