Via the Weekly Standard, a classic summation of foreign policy Hopenchange-style, right up there with “leading from behind.” This attitude, that Obama is perpetually the only adult in the room of whatever room he’s in, has been part of his presidential DNA since the day he was sworn in. Remember this line from his first inaugural?
On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord. On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn-out dogmas that for far too long have strangled our politics. We remain a young nation. But in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things.
The adults were in charge now. That’s been his approach to the GOP ever since, his speeches adorned with endless straw men and false choices designed to portray his critics — including his critics on the left, occasionally — as pie-eyed ideologues forever trying to drag him from the responsible, adult path. It’s annoying, but you can chalk that up to partisan politics if you like. What’s harder to explain is O taking the “adult in the room” attitude with other heads of state. Sometimes it’s an undertone, like when he and Kerry whine that Russia’s aggression towards Ukraine isn’t the way nations behave in the 21st century. The international order is more adult now, the argument implies; first-world countries settle their problems with “dialogue,” not with bombs and guns. Sometimes, though, it’s a bit more than an undertone:
I don’t have a bad personal relationship with Putin. When we have conversations, they’re candid, they’re blunt, oftentimes they’re constructive. I know the press likes to focus on body language and he’s got that kind of slouch, looking like the bored kid in the back of the classroom.
That remark, from last August, reportedly didn’t go over well in the Kremlin and it’s been all downhill ever since. So why does O say stuff like that? Maybe the simplest explanation is the correct one: He’s bought into his own B.S. and now his ego really is that big. Or maybe there’s a strategic element to the “adult in the room” approach. Maybe, by positioning himself and the U.S. as above the fray abroad, it makes non-intervention a bit more salable to voters. The public may be war weary but they also don’t like to think that America’s showing weakness towards aggressors; the “above the fray” view, in which we’re endlessly “disappointed” in how other nations behave, allows us to save some face while refusing to act. We don’t need to dirty our hands by playing in the sewer with these kids. What adult would want to?