About this time in every president’s final term, he starts looking for work. Most presidents start collecting string for writing their memoirs, or raising money to build libraries as shrines to themselves. Harry S. Truman thought a seat in Congress might be appropriate for ex-presidents, and John Quincy Adams actually got himself elected to the House of Representatives.
President Obama is no doubt looking for something of enough grandeur to reflect his opinion of himself, and rumors are floating back from the Middle East that he is sounding out Democrats, Republicans and friends of the United Nations in the United States to help him get the job of secretary-general of the U.N. Ban Ki-Moon’s term expires this year and Mr. Obama is said to think he’s just the man to succeed him.
The Kuwaiti daily Al-Jarida reports that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has heard the rumor and is recruiting the Persian Gulf states, including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, new allies in fear of Iran, to cut the president off at the pass. Mr. Obama’s attempt to reach accommodation with the mullahs in Tehran has raised the hackles of the Arabs and ups the ante in conflicts between the Arabs and the Iranians and Sunni and Shia Muslims. Such accommodation with the mullahs, however, might serve well his ambitions, if any, for the office.
The Jerusalem Post reports that its sources close to Mr. Netanyahu do not deny the speculation that the prime minister aims to “torpedo the Obama project.” These friends say Mr. Netanyahu thinks Mr. Obama’s presidency has been characterized by moving closer to the Muslim Brotherhood, toppling the regime of Hosni Mubarak, and by attempts to ally himself with political Islam.
Mr. Obama is said to think he can resolve the warfare between Shiites and Sunnis, between Persians and Arabs, Turks and Kurds, Copts and Salafists, and get the states of the United Nations to acclaim him as the messiah once envisioned for himself in Washington. Hope and change didn’t work there, but maybe it would at the U.N., where standards and expectations are lower.
The secretary-general is appointed by the General Assembly on the recommendation of the Security Council, subject to the veto of any of the five permanent members of the Security Council. The general assembly, dominated by left-wing regimes that despise America and the democratic traditions it stands for, might happily support the ex-president who set out to cut America down to size.
But China and Russia, both as permanent members of the U.N. Security Council have a veto over the secretary-general’s appointment, might not agree, leftist or not. They have a wider view of the world.
The story might be just another imaginative fairy tale of the Arabian night. The Arab media is addicted to such tales. But Mr. Obama was once described by Bill Clinton as a fairy tale, too, and here he is, completing his second term, and Mr. Obama does not suffer excessive modesty.
He might feel comfortable at the U.N. with his friends of the aspiring nations, but former presidents have a responsibility not to cheapen the office the citizens entrusted to them. Ban Ki-moon has asserted authority never intended for the United Nations, often advancing his own ideas about an office that was meant to be a creature of the Security Council, limited to executing often convoluted instructions. The office in the hands of an opportunist like Mr. Obama, moving suspect presidential initiatives to an international level, would put an unelected, unrepresentative element into an unstable world.
But it’s first and last a bad idea for America, and that’s all Mr. Obama should consider. Surely he can find work somewhere else.