As this administration has entered its waning days, it seems to have long ago gave up on appealing to the political sensibilities of average Americans. It is easy to let oneself believe that the White House has simply lost touch with reality. But there is a difference between being out of touch and simply exhibiting such childlike petulance that you refuse to accept unpleasant truths. Obama’s administration has adopted the latter approach to bad news.
For anyone in the West who has been following the collapse of the Yemeni government since a January coup by Shiite-dominated Houthi rebels toppled the regime in Sanaa, there has been precious little good news. In a nation that the president claimed represented a model of the success of his approach to counterterrorism as recently as September, the collapse of the security situation has been a startling blow to geological stability and to Barack Obama’s domestic political standing.
But the administration seems to think that the rapidly deteriorating conditions in Yemen will go away if they’re ignored. According to White House Press Sec. Josh Earnest, Yemen remains a feather in the White House’s distinctly featherless cap (Hat tip to Real Clear Politics):
JONATHAN KARL, ABC NEWS: I know you’re asked this every time something terrible happens in Yemen, but now that we have essentially complete chaos in Yemen, does the White House still believe that Yemen is the model for a counter-terrorism strategy?
JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE: Jon, the White House does continue to believe that a successful counter-terrorism strategy is one that will build up the capacity of the central government to have local fighters on the ground to take the fight to extremists in their own country…
KARL: That’s astounding. You’re saying that you still see Yemen as the model, that building up the central government which has now collapsed, a president who has apparently fled the country, Saudi troops have amassed on one boarder, the Iranians supporting the rebels. You consider this as a model for counter-terrorism?
EARNEST: Again, Jon, what the United States considers to be our strategy when confronting the effort to try to mitigate the threat that is posed by extremists is to prevent them from establishing a safe haven. And certainly in a chaotic, dangerous situation like in Yemen, what the United States will do and has done is work to try to support the central government, build up the capacity of local fighters, and use our own technological and military capabilities to apply pressure on the extremists there.
On a day when what the White House calls the “legitimate government” of Yemen dissolves and its president flees the country out of fear for his personal safety, it takes a galling level of chutzpah to insist that the administration’s counterterror approach in Yemen – one centered on building up “the central government” – remains a noteworthy achievement. But they hope that you’ll believe them and not your lying eyes. And, you know what? Many of this president’s most blinkered supporters will do just that.
It’s going to be delight to watch the White House refuse to acknowledge the Supreme Court’s ruling in King v. Burwell if the Court finds against the government and strips the Affordable Care Act of its life-sustaining federal subsidies. In fact, the executive branch’s abject refusal to accept any events that cut against its desired outcomes could precipitate a constitutional crisis of a previously unknown magnitude.
The presumption in the above scenario is, however, that this administration is even relevant by June when the 2016 presidential election cycle has ramped up and all the candidates have launched their campaigns. By then, the press will probably be more interested in the reaction from the president-in-waiting than the ACA’s outgoing namesake.