For many, President Barack Obama entered the White House a coddled narcissist whose thin set of accomplishments was papered over by his supporters. They liked his ideals, his identity, and how he made them feel about themselves. That was sufficient to prompt millions of Americans to bury their concerns about this energetic but untested freshman senator and his readiness for the presidency. Six years later, the nation’s affairs are in a shambles. The president’s once ascendant party has been decimated, his signature achievement the focus of endless court challenges and political fights, and the international environment appears less stable than it was at the height of the blowback against George W. Bush’s perceived adventurism.
Clearly, Obama was both untested and unready, but don’t expect him to display an ounce of awareness of that condition or humility in his disgrace. Forever the narcissist, Barack Obama has the temerity to scold Scott Walker for – get this — lacking experience on the issue of foreign relations ahead of the Wisconsin governor’s likely presidential bid.
In a radio interview, Obama was asked about Walker’s criticisms of the president’s “deal” (or, rather, the preliminary outline of the loosely defined terms of a potential arrangement) with Iran regarding its nuclear program. Walker has joined other prospective GOP presidential candidates in claiming that he would do away with the deal if elected. Shockingly, Obama did not take the criticism constructively.
“And, you know, I am confident that any president who gets elected will be knowledgeable enough about foreign policy and knowledgeable enough about the traditions and precedents of presidential power that they won’t start calling to question the capacity of the executive branch of the United States to enter into agreements with other countries,” Obama told the hosts of NPR News. “It would be a foolish approach to take, and, you know, perhaps Mr. Walker, after he’s taken some time to bone up on foreign policy, will feel the same way.”
The fact is that no American president who had not previously served in an administration enters a campaign fully abreast of the complexities of international affairs. Even candidate Barack Obama joined the presidential race without any record to speak of regarding foreign policy. Indeed, his signature issue as a candidate was backing the reform of the chronically failing Department of Veterans Affairs. How has that worked out? Obama dazzled his supporters with bland pronouncements like “America cannot meet the threats of this century alone, but the world cannot meet them without America,” or “We must neither retreat from the world nor try to bully it into submission — we must lead the world, by deed and example.” But perhaps after eight years of excitement on the foreign policy front, Obama, his backers, and a majority of Americans wanted nothing less than to be bored by the world beyond America’s shores.
They were disappointed. Today, on the back end of Obama’s second term in office, the world is an objectively more dangerous place than it was in 2009. War has again returned to the European continent, and Russia has embarked on the distinctly 20th Century course of gobbling up its neighbor’s territory. China has set the stage for its own crusade of territorial acquisition, a threat for which the world is so unprepared that it simply pretends this looming catastrophe doesn’t exist. The Middle East has not been this volatile since the immediate post-War era. The region’s Sunni nations have intervened militarily in places like Libya and Yemen; two states that failed as a direct result of directionless Western action and careless inaction respectively. Iran’s creeping influence has now expanded to four Arab capitals. The threat of a regional civil war between Sunni and Shiite Muslims looms larger now than at any point since 1979. And all the while, the unimaginably horrific Islamic State insurgents, who have captured major portions of Iraq and Syria, have led the American public to again warm to the prospect of sending young men and women in arms back to the region.
That’s quite the legacy.
“We have seen the consequences of a foreign policy based on flawed ideology, and a belief that tough talk can replace real strength and vision,” Obama said nearly eight years ago. For a politician who prided himself on his audacity, this comment is perfectly in kind with that unattractive personality trait. Obama was ever only a man of words. His actions have diminished his stature greatly. If Scott Walker lacks foreign affairs experience — and he does, as does the rest of the field of prospective 2016 candidates with the debatable exception of Marco Rubio – he has time to correct for that knowledge deficit. But the best teacher is, of course, failure. Fortunately for Republicans, Obama has led a master class in how not to manage American international affairs as commander-in-chief.
Update: Team Walker issued a response to the president’s trolling on Tuesday morning:
“President Obama’s failed leadership has put him at odds with many across the country, including members of his own party, and key allies around the world. Americans would be better served by a president who spent more time working with governors and members of Congress rather than attacking them. Whether it is cutting a bad deal with Iran, calling ISIS the JV squad, or touting Yemen as a success story, Obama’s lack of leadership has hurt America’s safety and standing in the world.” – Governor Scott Walker