Mike Kueber's Blog

May 5, 2011

Osama’s head shot

One of the reasons that I voted for Barack Obama was that during the campaign he acted coolly and dispassionately, unlike his opponent John McCain.  When the American financial system was approaching a meltdown, McCain lurched from recommending a campaign shutdown to a D.C. summit to a gas-tax vacation while Obama stuck to his campaign and let Bush-43 run the country.

Since his election, however, Obama has disappointed me because he and the Pelosi-Reid Congress took America further to the left than it wanted to go during their two-year reign.  But his action today in deciding to withhold photos of the Osama head shot is an example of why I voted for him.  Although his explanation reveals him not as polished or articulate as Bush-43 (notice the three consecutive “you knows”), he gets to the heart of the matter: 

  • It is important for us to make sure that very graphic photos of somebody who was shot in the head are not floating around as an incitement to additional violence, as a propaganda tool. You know, that’s not who we are. You know, we don’t trot out this stuff as trophies. You know, the fact of the matter is this was somebody who was deserving of the justice that he received.”

Yes, the tabloid crowd in America will ask for tabloid fodder, but the American government should not be complicit in this untoward and unseemly activity.  That is not what we do. 

For a too-fawning description on Obama’s leadership mojo, see Maureen Dowd’s most recent column.    She calls Obama “Cool Hand Barack” and compares his Saturday appearance at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner to Michael Corleone’s appearance at a baptism while several “hits” on his rivals were being carried out.

Maureen also points out that one on Obama’s advisers “described the president as the un-John Wayne ushering a reviled and chastened America away from the head of the global table. The unnamed adviser described the Obama doctrine on display in Libya as ‘leading from behind,’ which sounds rather pathetic.”  I agree with Maureen that such advisors are not helpful when they make gratuitous slights about the Duke.

Maureen’s reference to John Wayne came from an article in The New Yorker written by Ryan Lizza.  The following is the concluding paragraph in the interesting article titled, “The Consequentialist”: 

  • “Nonetheless, Obama may be moving toward something resembling a doctrine. One of his advisers described the President’s actions in Libya as ‘leading from behind.’  That’s not a slogan designed for signs at the 2012 Democratic Convention, but it does accurately describe the balance that Obama now seems to be finding. It’s a different definition of leadership than America is known for, and it comes from two unspoken beliefs: that the relative power of the U.S. is declining, as rivals like China rise, and that the U.S. is reviled in many parts of the world. Pursuing our interests and spreading our ideals thus requires stealth and modesty as well as military strength. ‘It’s so at odds with the John Wayne expectation for what America is in the world,’ the adviser said.  ‘But it’s necessary for shepherding us through this phase.’”

Charles Krauthammer discussed Lizza’s article in a recent column:

To be precise, leading from behind is a style, not a doctrine. Doctrines involve ideas, but since there are no discernible ones that make sense of Obama’s foreign policy — Lizza’s painstaking two-year chronicle shows it to be as ad hoc, erratic, and confused as it appears — this will have to do

And it surely is an accurate description, from President Obama’s shocking passivity during Iran’s 2009 Green Revolution to his dithering on Libya — acting at the very last moment, then handing off to a bickering coalition, yielding the current bloody stalemate. It’s been a foreign policy of hesitation, delay, and indecision, marked by plaintive appeals to the (fictional) “international community” to do what only America can.

But underlying that style, assures this Obama adviser, there really are ideas. Indeed, “two unspoken beliefs,” explains Lizza. “That the relative power of the U.S. is declining, as rivals like China rise, and that the U.S. is reviled in many parts of the world.”

Amazing.  This is why Obama is deliberately diminishing American presence, standing, and leadership in the world?

4 Comments »

  1. President Obama is indecisive on virtually every policy matter, he doesn’t know what he thinks and he can’t make decisions. Except, perhaps, on whether to play 18 rounds or get something to eat.

    Comment by bobbevard — May 5, 2011 @ 4:18 am | Reply

    • Hey, Bob, you prompted me to consider another possibility. I was perversely attracked to Nixon because I shared some of his insecurities. I have always been indecisive, too, so maybe that is why I am less critical of that significant character flaw. In fact, I often ridicule people who I characterize as too decisive – “he may be wrong, but never in doubt.”

      Comment by Mike Kueber — May 5, 2011 @ 12:44 pm | Reply

  2. Well, perhaps we should consider the uttimate value of “decisiveness.”

    Partisans attack Obama for pondering our Afghanistan policy for four weeks before going forward, or for waiting four days before deciding what to do about Libya.

    There are always simple-minded and dogmatic responses to political situations (“kill ’em all,” or “give peace a chance.”). But hastily-made decisions in Iraq (in 1953), Vietnam, etc. have ended up costing us pretty dearly.

    Come to think of it, I think I’d actually prefer a leader that considers all of the ramifications of his policies before proceeding. That may just increase the likelihood of arriving at policies that work!

    Comment by Anonymous — May 5, 2011 @ 1:41 pm | Reply

    • I agree with your position. I think a more controversial position is whether America should “lead from behind,” which might be effective, but also can be a euphemism for indecisive. Of course, Obama would not concede that his leadership style is to lead from behind.

      Comment by Mike Kueber — May 5, 2011 @ 2:21 pm | Reply


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