David Brooks: Let's face it, Obama has a manhood problem in the Middle East

A below-the-buckle bookend to Brooks saying five years ago that he knew Obama would be a good president by the crease in his pants. Question: If he’s right that O has a “manhood problem,” what’s the policy Viagra that’ll solve it? What do people think he should do, or should have done, to be tougher? As I recall, opposition to bombing Assad for crossing Obama’s “red line” last fall was fairly bipartisan. Demands from hawks like McCain that we arm the “moderate” rebels in Syria have been derided as much by grassroots righties as they have by the left. We snicker at O for wrist-slapping Putin and his cronies with sanctions as punishment for invading Ukraine but no one in either party is suggesting anything radically more confrontational. And on Iran, while he’s being naive about the chances of a meaningful nuclear freeze, it’s hard to knock him for also being skeptical about a military attack that many experts think will delay Iran’s program by only a few years even if it’s “successful.” The fact is, Obama answers to a public that’s justifiably weary of war. His capacity to be “tough” abroad is limited and the Assads and Putins know it. Given how Bush shifted towards diplomacy in his second term, I’m frankly not sure how starkly he would disagree with Obama’s basic approach these days. Would Dubya, the great promoter of democracy abroad, have stood by Mubarak when Egyptians were out in the streets? Would he be bombing Iran at this point? (He passed when he had the chance.) Would he have done anything vis-a-vis Ukraine that he didn’t do vis-a-vis Georgia?

Note Chuck Todd’s point at the end about the White House fretting about rhetoric too. Is it better for Obama to talk tough even if he has no intention of acting tough or, if he’s intent on not acting, should he tone things down? His aides apparently think his problem is that he doesn’t sound tough enough, but sounding tough is how he ended up with that “red line” fiasco in Syria.

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