Obama pivots to foreign policy, media not exactly impressed

posted at 10:41 am on May 28, 2014 by Ed Morrissey

Barack Obama travels to West Point today to provide another “reset” to his foreign policy, stung over criticism that American power has been in retreat and its policy drifting over the last five-plus years. CNN’s John King, Julianna Goldman, and Jackie Kucinich preview the pivot, and speculate whether Obama will address the VA scandal about which these “young cadets” might be worrying, in the long-term view:

Bloomberg also considers this a defensive move after an avalanche of criticism, especially over the last year:

The Hill also frames this as a defensive pivot:

The White House is mounting a concerted defense of President Obama’s foreign policy against criticism that he has weakened U.S. influence around the globe.

The full-court press hinges on a speech Obama will give Wednesday at West Point’s commencement, where aides say the commander in chief will argue that the U.S. can continue to exert meaningful influence through diplomacy and multilateralism.

The push appears motivated in part by the president’s personal frustration with hawkish critics of his foreign policy, who argue he has eroded American power and left a leadership vacuum filled by rivals such as Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The criticism has centered on Syria, where the administration has been unable to slow civilian deaths in a brutal civil war, and Ukraine, where the administration watched as Putin and Russia took over the region of Crimea.

It also encompasses an Asian pivot that critics say has yet to take hold. A deal last week in which Russia agreed to supply natural gas to China reinforced arguments that Obama is being outpaced by events.

Don’t expect this pivot to last long. Obama has not given foreign policy much attention until events forced it upon him, and even then hardly seemed enthusiastic about projecting leadership. Obama wants to focus on domestic policy in the run-up to the midterms, since Congressional elections don’t hinge on foreign policy. The longer Obama spends on foreign policy, the more defensive he looks, and the impact of his attempts to set narratives on inequality and the “war on women” grows weaker.

Speaking of weaker, National Journal’s Major Garrett laments the weak tone set by Obama’s announcements on Afghanistan — although in fairness, there doesn’t seem to be much Obama could do about it absent a popular surge in support for a more robust and long-term mission there:

“I think Americans have learned that it’s harder to end wars than it is to begin them,” the president said, restating a truism embedded within Pentagon planning at least since the Korean War. “Yet this is how wars end in the 21st century—not through signing ceremonies but through decisive blows against our adversaries, transitions to elected governments, security forces who are trained to take the lead and ultimately full responsibility.”

Underwhelming.

In fact, most wars involving the United States since World War II have ended vaguely, ingloriously, or semi-ceremonially. In the first instance, think Korea—it’s technically still a war because there was no peace treaty, only an armistice. In the second instance, think of the frantic U.S. pullout from Saigon. In the third, the end of the first Gulf War carried a surrender, but with it came flinching (in the eyes of neoconservative hawks), unfinished business defined by no-fly zones and a trade embargo.

It’s not that the Afghanistan war is ending differently. It’s that it’s ending the same way other recent wars have, with one big difference. This time the United States was attacked, the casualties were civilians, and the yearning for decisive victory was as clear as it’s been since Pearl Harbor. And yet there’s damn little that’s decisive in Afghanistan after all we’ve deployed, spent [see figure 1.27], and lost.

John Kerry made the media rounds this morning, attempting to bolster Obama’s pivot by running interference on the pre-speech analysis. Most of his remarks were mundane restatements of White House messaging, but this caught Chris Cuomo’s attention:

This comes from the man who launched his own career by attacking the conduct of the US military during the Vietnam War as something out of Genghis Khan. He joined up with anti-war organizers in their own “industry of oppositionists,” and even as late as the Iraq War managed to join in with fellow anti-war voices to criticize George W. Bush’s foreign policy. All of this certainly benefited Kerry, but now suddenly any criticism of foreign policy under his and Obama’s direction is just the product of an “industry of oppositionists”? That’s rank hypocrisy.

Update: “Oppositionists,” not “opportunists,” although at least the latter is an actual word.


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Obama, the community organizer, can’t seem to organize the world the way he wants to. Must be frustrating for him; hope he doesn’t get disappointed and detached.

Kerry, who served in Vietnam, still doesn’t know what his job is…besides hiding yachts to save on taxes. Must be frustrating for him, too.

DublOh7 on May 28, 2014 at 6:04 AM

seriously, how did these two CLOWNS ever get anywhere in life let along as PRESIDENT and SECRETARY of STATE?

This is just too embarrassing to be true…..

SDarchitect on May 28, 2014 at 10:47 AM

All that pivotin’ gotta make a man dizzy.

Immolate on May 28, 2014 at 10:48 AM

Scouting for new vacation places to sent the Sas-Q-Watch to.

Rix on May 28, 2014 at 10:50 AM

Will someone remind me of what the hell Obama’s foreign policy is? I know it pivots a lot and focuses.

Herb on May 28, 2014 at 10:51 AM

“Industry of oppositionists,” whatever that means…

HornHiAceDeuce on May 28, 2014 at 10:51 AM

The economy is 24/7, employment 24/7, how many 24/7′s are there?

right2bright on May 28, 2014 at 10:52 AM

The buck stops over in the next office or something…

right2bright on May 28, 2014 at 10:54 AM

1. What crisis? What scandal? What low poll numbers? 43% is way high.
2. Demand for obama to speak.
3. Investigation of hens, by own foxes, or analysis, war/peace/UN plan, avoid US overreach, consensus, bow to potentates, etc.
4. Blabbering by the weaselly Rs on Faux and in general.
5. “What you talking about? This is old news”.

Has there ever lived a smarter man?

Has there ever been a greater man in the USA history?

If you say “Yes”, “you’re all racists, Christianist rubes”.

Schadenfreude on May 28, 2014 at 10:55 AM

Ho Chi Kerry looks like he got a facelift.

sentinelrules on May 28, 2014 at 10:55 AM

The full-court press hinges on a speech Obama will give …

This one sentence describes Obama’s entire career: giving speeches.

Mark Boabaca on May 28, 2014 at 10:55 AM

But John “F” Kerry served in Viet Nam.

cat-scratch on May 28, 2014 at 10:55 AM

We need Weed brain or Tom Steyer’s valet here to
tell us how “Learned” Obama’s foreign policy is…

ToddPA on May 28, 2014 at 10:56 AM

Scouting for new vacation places to sent the Sas-Q-Watch to.

Rix on May 28, 2014 at 10:50 AM

“Racist, she’s the most beautiful woman to ever have occupied that white house”. Note, “white” is the racist part. Repent!

Schadenfreude on May 28, 2014 at 10:56 AM

Dog Eater is so reactionary, if there’s so much as one peep of criticism out there his entire administrative machine springs to life to create the illusion that he’s doing something substantive.

Bishop on May 28, 2014 at 10:56 AM

Like Obozo’s industry of opposition to actually leading the country?

O couldn’t lead a group of people through an open door.

Patriot Vet on May 28, 2014 at 10:56 AM

Is there a red line anywhere?

Tater Salad on May 28, 2014 at 10:56 AM

West Point used to be great.

Schadenfreude on May 28, 2014 at 10:56 AM

Don’t expect this pivot to last long.

To be followed by Pivot to Jobs #12,743.

Bitter Clinger on May 28, 2014 at 10:57 AM

All those graduates are killing-machines.

Schadenfreude on May 28, 2014 at 10:57 AM

Ho Chi Kerry looks like he got a facelift.

sentinelrules on May 28, 2014 at 10:55 AM

Just a little botox.

Tater Salad on May 28, 2014 at 10:58 AM

“Will someone remind me of what the hell Obama’s foreign policy is? I know it pivots a lot and focuses.”

Believe it’s “looking at behinds”, or “leading from a blind”, or something like that…

GrassMudHorsey on May 28, 2014 at 10:58 AM

Obama’s entire eight years as POTUS will be remembered as a heroic, but alas futile effort to correct the damage done by GWB. In the end, W’s evil was just too potent for even the lightworker’s good to overcome.

Immolate on May 28, 2014 at 10:58 AM

Don’t expect this pivot to last long. Obama has not given foreign policy much attention

That’s all that really needed to be said.

40 vets are dead.

Ambassador Stevens still dead.

faraway on May 28, 2014 at 10:59 AM

pivot divot

Tsar of Earth on May 28, 2014 at 10:59 AM

Obama’s entire eight years as POTUS will be remembered as a heroic, but alas futile effort to correct the damage done by GWB. In the end, W’s evil was just too potent for even the lightworker’s good to overcome.

Immolate on May 28, 2014 at 10:58 AM

So you’re saying he’s not God after all?
/heartache

Bitter Clinger on May 28, 2014 at 11:00 AM

President Obama’s IQ is off the charts. He’ll figure something out.

Immolate on May 28, 2014 at 11:00 AM

So you’re saying he’s not God after all?
/heartache

Bitter Clinger on May 28, 2014 at 11:00 AM

We’re still waiting for the Vatican to canonize those books.

Immolate on May 28, 2014 at 11:02 AM

although in fairness, there doesn’t seem to be much Obama could do about it absent a popular surge in support for a more robust and long-term mission there:

It’s possible that a surge of support could be developed if the administration showed any…. what’s that called again… oh, yeah… leadership

NJRepub on May 28, 2014 at 11:03 AM

I wonder if the cadets protested Obama as the commencement speaker if that could have kept him from showing up ala SOS Rice @ Rutgers??

Deano1952 on May 28, 2014 at 11:03 AM

Obama at West Point. What a doofus.

LASue on May 28, 2014 at 11:03 AM

Terrible, just terrible.

Bmore on May 28, 2014 at 11:03 AM

seriously, how did these two CLOWNS ever get anywhere in life let along as PRESIDENT and SECRETARY of STATE?

This is just too embarrassing to be true…..

SDarchitect on May 28, 2014 at 10:47 AM

One coasted on his race (or lack of it), the other married money.

formwiz on May 28, 2014 at 11:04 AM

pivot divot

Tsar of Earth on May 28, 2014 at 10:59 AM

; )

Bmore on May 28, 2014 at 11:05 AM

Did Obama say in his speech that Iran was giving up its nuclear program?

LASue on May 28, 2014 at 11:05 AM

The White House is mounting a concerted defense of President Obama’s foreign policy against criticism that he has weakened U.S. influence around the globe.

I thought that was his intention.

rbj on May 28, 2014 at 11:07 AM

Fitting for Obama to go to West Point to discuss foreign policy what with its connection to Benedict Arnold and all.

HiJack on May 28, 2014 at 11:07 AM

Just don’t mention Syria or Ohblahblah will get all vaporish.

neyney on May 28, 2014 at 11:11 AM

I’m Not Weak.

Bmore on May 28, 2014 at 11:12 AM

So, when do the obamas leave for Martha’s Vineyard? Hawaii? Isn’t it time for another of their BILLION dollar vacations?

Pork-Chop on May 28, 2014 at 11:12 AM

The cadets should rise from their seats and file out just as Dog Eater approaches the podium, that would be epic. I’m not sure what I would do but it would damn difficult to listen to Bark bloviate knowing that the corpses of veterans are being freshly planted in the ground due to the ineptitude of his administration.

Bishop on May 28, 2014 at 11:13 AM

The botox ain’t foolin’ anyone.

CurtZHP on May 28, 2014 at 11:14 AM

John Kerry, Neville Chamberlain Lite

Wallythedog on May 28, 2014 at 11:14 AM

How long can the pathetic, liberal lemmings go on believing those incompetent losers?

rplat on May 28, 2014 at 11:15 AM

Obama pivots to foreign policy, media not exactly impressed

Obama is going to be madder then heck when he reads about this over crumpets and tea when he gets up this afternoon..

Electrongod on May 28, 2014 at 11:16 AM

Ho Chi Kerry looks like he got a facelift.

sentinelrules on May 28, 2014 at 10:55 AM

He looks more like a goat.

“I’m not weak” — obama

No, you’re not weak. You are down right Gargantuan. The rest of the world are all so obtuse and can’t see your greatness. It’s all there, in full light.

Schadenfreude on May 28, 2014 at 11:17 AM

Scouting for new vacation places to sent the Sas-Q-Watch to.

Rix on May 28, 2014 at 10:50 AM

I thought Michelle was great in Star Wars!

DimsdalePiranha on May 28, 2014 at 10:27 AM

I saw what y’all did there and LOVE it! ;op

neyney on May 28, 2014 at 11:18 AM

What are the odds that every graduating cadet in that audience is smarter than Obama?

birdwatcher on May 28, 2014 at 11:19 AM

Obama at West Point. What a doofus study in contrasts.
LASue on May 28, 2014 at 11:03 AM

Cleombrotus on May 28, 2014 at 11:19 AM

Dog Eater will arrive for his speech with a giant magnet clinging to his back to prove to everyone that yes, he does have a spine of steel.

Bishop on May 28, 2014 at 11:19 AM

John Kerry ‏@JohnKerry 15m
POTUS making clear what our vision is for how we deal w/ rapidly changing, more complex world where terrorism is the principal challenge.

Sure glad we’ve now got a “clear vision”. Don’t you all now feel so much safer?

Rovin on May 28, 2014 at 11:20 AM

The Kerry dept. and the smartest in all of history, right after Hillary.

Schadenfreude on May 28, 2014 at 11:22 AM

John Kerry ‏@JohnKerry 15m
POTUS making clear what our vision is for how we deal w/ rapidly changing, more complex world where terrorism is the principal challenge.

Wait. What?? I thought Obama beat terrorism in the world.

faraway on May 28, 2014 at 11:22 AM

In conclusion, allow me to speak in personal terms. This evening means a great deal to me. I feel deeply honored by the opportunity to address you. I can say–not as a patriotic bromide, but with full knowledge of the necessary metaphysical, epistemological, ethical, political and esthetic roots–that the United States of America is the greatest, the noblest and, in its original founding principles, the only moral country in the history of the world. There is a kind of quiet radiance associated in my mind with the name West Point–because you have preserved the spirit of those original founding principles and you are their symbol. There were contradictions and omissions in those principles, and there may be in yours–but I am speaking of the essentials. There may be individuals in your history who did not live up to your highest standards–as there are in every institution–since no institutions and no social system can guarantee the automatic perfection of all its members; this depends on an individual’s free will. I am speaking of your standards. You have preserved three qualities of character which were typical at the time of America’s birth, but are virtually nonexistent today: earnestness–dedication–a sense of honor. Honor is self-esteem made visible in action.

You have chosen to risk your lives for the defense of this country. I will not insult you by saying that you are dedicated to selfless service–it is not a virtue in my morality. In my morality, the defense of one’s country means that a man is personally unwilling to live as the conquered slave of any enemy, foreign or domestic. This is an enormous virtue. Some of you may not be consciously aware of it. I want to help you to realize it.

Ayn Rand to the graduating class of West Point – 1974

Go ahead, Bronco Bama, try and match it.

Cleombrotus on May 28, 2014 at 11:25 AM

VA run like a crime syndicate.

Forward.

Schadenfreude on May 28, 2014 at 11:30 AM

There can be no more obvious example that America has steeped itself in such immoral debauchery of any that Sodom and Gomorrah had so willingly exhibited than the fact that God himself has not struck down the likes of Obama, Reid, Pelosi, et al, because we deserve what we asked for. I do believe that we are wasting our time asking God bless the USA. Thank you Democrats. Thank you, you lying, Marxist liberals. And thank you, you ignorant, worthless low-info voters.

HiJack on May 28, 2014 at 11:30 AM

“where aides say the commander in chief will argue that the U.S. can continue to exert meaningful influence through diplomacy and multilateralism.”

aint’ gonna be no more war no more.

West Point doesn’t need to graduate officers who will lead combat troops or generals who will plan war.

What we need from West Point are bureaucrats and diplomats who will talk our enemies to death, enmesh them in complex (but meaningless) documents that will be ignored even as they are being signed. Officers who look good in front of the camera, broad chests covered with obscure ribbons, row upon row of campaign ribbons, who speak in that authoritative baritone that commands respect. Officers who retire from service and join large corporations, who marry well, who get themselves elected to public office. Men like John McCain.

Joseph OHenry on May 28, 2014 at 11:32 AM

You have chosen to risk your lives for the defense of this country. I will not insult you by saying that you are dedicated to selfless service–it is not a virtue in my morality. In my morality, the defense of one’s country means that a man is personally unwilling to live as the conquered slave of any enemy, foreign or domestic. This is an enormous virtue. Some of you may not be consciously aware of it. I want to help you to realize it.

Ayn Rand to the graduating class of West Point – 1974

Thank you, Cleombrotus

Schadenfreude on May 28, 2014 at 11:32 AM

HiJack on May 28, 2014 at 11:30 AM

It’s all deserved. It’s punishment for all the wrongs. The devil is among us.

Schadenfreude on May 28, 2014 at 11:33 AM

Obama doesn’t deserve to be on the same planet much less in the same building as the fine men and women that populate West Point. They will of course treat him respectfully today as that is their way and he, unfortunately, is their CinC.

But, deep inside where the truth lives, you just know they’ll be thinking “I can’t wait until this phony, America-hating mother f**ker is gone!”

TXUS on May 28, 2014 at 11:33 AM

Ho Chi Kerry looks like he got a facelift.

sentinelrules on May 28, 2014 at 10:55 AM

Just a little botox.

Tater Salad on May 28, 2014 at 10:58 AM

It’s just a little swelling from when ValJar slapped the crap out of him last week for his latest stumble.

slickwillie2001 on May 28, 2014 at 11:36 AM

But, deep inside where the truth lives, you just know they’ll be thinking “I can’t wait until this phony, America-hating mother f**ker is gone!”

TXUS on May 28, 2014 at 11:33 AM

They and a tens of millions of the rest of us.

HiJack on May 28, 2014 at 11:37 AM

“Will someone remind me of what the hell Obama’s foreign policy is? I know it pivots a lot and focuses.”

Believe it’s “looking at behinds”, or “leading from a blind”, or something like that…

GrassMudHorsey

From what I can see, it’s a lot of duckin’ into a blind ……

BD57 on May 28, 2014 at 11:47 AM

Don’t expect this pivot to last long. Obama has not given foreign policy much attention until events forced it upon him, and even then hardly seemed enthusiastic about projecting leadership.

The longer Obama spends on foreign policy, the worse Hillary looks.

Steve Z on May 28, 2014 at 11:51 AM

John Kerry ‏@JohnKerry 15m
POTUS making clear what our vision is for how we deal w/ rapidly changing, more complex world where terrorism is the principal challenge.

Wait. What?? I thought Obama beat terrorism in the world.

faraway on May 28, 2014 at 11:22 AM

bin Laden’s dead. We can stop talking about terrorists now.

There Goes the Neighborhood on May 28, 2014 at 11:53 AM

Let’s blame the Bushes!

ExpressoBold on May 28, 2014 at 11:54 AM

John Kerry ‏@JohnKerry 15m
POTUS making clear what our vision is for how we deal w/ rapidly changing, more complex world where terrorism is the principal challenge.

GM is dead and terrorism is alive now?

Schadenfreude on May 28, 2014 at 11:54 AM

Some of them want the chaos, some are just sycophants, but are there really no democrats out there who don’t have a modicum of intellectual curiosity about the direction this country is headed in?

Murphy9 on May 28, 2014 at 11:58 AM

So damn tired of the word ‘pivot’used in this context.

What he does is “fall back to cover and cower in place, waiting to see if the media skirmish line holds.”

ROCnPhilly on May 28, 2014 at 12:08 PM

So apparently Obama said that “a lot of our problems are caused not when we exercise restraint, but when we rush into conflicts.”

If I were ever West Point material, I would have risked a dishonorable discharge by yelling out “You mean like Libya and Benghazi?” at the top of my lungs.

BKennedy on May 28, 2014 at 12:09 PM

Yes, because the “reset” with Russia has worked so well.

Does the President realize he is speaking to cadets, soon to be officers on the frontline of a panoply of dangerous issues mostly created or worsened by his feckless policies, with a smaller budget that he cut, with a smaller force he advocated, with less allies to help us fight it, with the specter of Benghazi where he left our men to die and with a VA hospital system, which, should they be injured, he neglected and relegated to one of the most substandard treatment facilities in our nation?

Please Mr. President. Don’t insult us by attempting to cloak yourself in the military you clearly despise. Actions speak louder than words.

Marcus Traianus on May 28, 2014 at 12:15 PM

Total incompetence exhibited by this administration time and time again. Thanks you idiot liberals………

ultracon on May 28, 2014 at 12:17 PM

He may have a solid pivot foot, but the shot clock has run out time and time again.

Really why do we care which direction he fumes, flusters, and blames? The results are the same: nothing.

Axeman on May 28, 2014 at 12:29 PM

How many donkeys can you count in this administration?

jake49 on May 28, 2014 at 12:41 PM

John Kerry, as awesome as Cap’n Crunch, after sitting in milk for half and hour

Wallythedog on May 28, 2014 at 1:21 PM

…but are there really no democrats out there who don’t have a modicum of intellectual curiosity about the direction this country is headed in?

Murphy9 on May 28, 2014 at 11:58 AM

Individual denial in the name of herd survival?

(I have been trying to answer this question most of my life and it’s driving me freaking nuts. Like them.)

Tsar of Earth on May 28, 2014 at 1:42 PM

Obama doesn’t pay attention to anything until it’s forced upon him.

Leaves more time for important stuff. Like golfing. And vacations.

GarandFan on May 28, 2014 at 2:29 PM

It’s that damn Global Test!

Another Drew on May 28, 2014 at 2:35 PM

“I think Barack knew that he had God-given talents that were extraordinary. He knows exactly how smart he is. . . . He knows how perceptive he is. He knows what a good reader of people he is. And he knows that he has the ability — the extraordinary, uncanny ability — to take a thousand different perspectives, digest them and make sense out of them, and I think that he has never really been challenged intellectually. . . . So what I sensed in him was not just a restless spirit but somebody with such extraordinary talents that had to be really taxed in order for him to be happy. . . . He’s been bored to death his whole life. He’s just too talented to do what ordinary people do.”

307wolverine on May 28, 2014 at 2:55 PM