Clinton, Obama, and Political Mantras

Hillary Clinton did an interview for The Atlantic magazine in which the former secretary of state criticized President Obama’s foreign policy. She reduced his foreign policy down to a mantras, specifically the phrase “don’t do stupid stuff”. Although, we are told that in the Obama version the word stuff was actually a cruder word.

Politics is often a harsh arena, where loyalties are for convenience only and truth is spun in whatever direction the speaker wants to exert influence. It’s a bummer for President Obama that someone so close to his administration is already turning against him. Chances are her statements are a simplification to accentuate the president’s weaknesses. She is likely taking this action in order to make it appear she was hindered by the president during her role as our top diplomat, and therefore cannot be held accountable for the problems that occurred during her tenure.

I would like to make a couple of observations here.

First, reducing Obama’s foreign policy to a mantra is likely unfair, but it probably has a degree of truth to it. If you think of the coverage of almost every policy change  we have seen come from the Obama administration we only hear the overarching principle. In regards to the economy, ‘some agencies are too big to fail.’ But he wasn’t the least bit wary of how this would contradict free market principles. In regards to health care, ‘America is great enough to provide every person with coverage.’ But when it comes to working out the implications he is seemingly caught off guard as each new problem comes to light. In regards to immigration, ‘children brought here by their parents are not at fault.’ But again he didn’t  foresee or deal with the problems these policies generated.

Second, if Clinton was aware Obama’s administration was headed in the wrong direction, and if she was not allowed input or action to improve the situation, then she should have resigned. If she remained in such a position she must have believed she was doing some good, either for the world or for her own career.


The Price of Grandstanding

For the past few weeks Americans have been waiting for a decision from our Commander in Chief about Syria.

It’s time to pay the price for past grandstanding.

On April 14, 1986, Ronald Reagan ordered airstrikes on Libya. To the best of my knowledge he did not consult congress. He did not take any opinion polls. He just made a decision as Commander in Chief. (Bill Clinton ordered similar strikes in Afghanistan in August 1998.)

Some people said Reagan over extended his authority. He simply stood by his convictions and the voices of dissent faded eventually.

But in the present day we have a president who accused his predecessor of being a warmonger. He asserted Bush had acted illegally, ordering a strike without congressional approval. He claimed Bush lied about chemical weapons in Iraq. So now when he faces a similar situation he has excluded himself from taking decisive action.

Instead he must get congressional approval, check on public opinion, and in this case, rely on the decisive action of Vladimir Putin to shape the American response.