The American Interest
Analysis by Walter Russell Mead & Staff
Nothing To See Here Obama Tip-Toes Past the Graveyard of His Foreign Policy

As his reasonably successful Asia trip came to an end, The New York Times noted that President Obama sounded edgy and frustrated when defending his foreign policy against pointed questioning from reporters:

On a day in which he announced new sanctions against Russia for its continued threats to Ukraine, Mr. Obama said his foreign policy was based on a workmanlike tending to American priorities that might lack the high drama of a wartime presidency but also avoided ruinous mistakes.

“You hit singles, you hit doubles; every once in a while we may be able to hit a home run,” Mr. Obama said at a news conference with Mr. Aquino. “But we steadily advance the interests of the American people and our partnership with folks around the world.”

It’s clear that the White House is beginning to understand that even American liberals have to work hard these days to continue to believe that the President is doing a good job in foreign affairs. Unforutnately, it is less clear that the White House knows what to do about the situation.

But neither the President nor Ben Rhodes (who is cited later in the article) appear to be taking on the reason so many of the president’s sympathizers are shaking their heads over the state of American foreign policy today. It is clear to a child of ten that the President and all the people around him totally failed to understand the first thing about Vladimir Putin and his foreign policy agenda. They were caught utterly flatfooted by his move on Ukraine. To both the average layperson and the seasoned foreign policy professional, this looks like a major misreading of a major issue. Many will wonder how an administration that was listening in to Angela Merkel’s cell phone calls could have misread Russia so comprehensively.

A public failure of this magnitude, (comparable in a way to George W. Bush launching a war to stop a WMD program that he then failed to find) is profoundly damaging to public confidence in a political leader. People begin to think that the emperor doesn’t have any clothes and they start to ask questions about what else the President and his team don’t understand.

That the President and a top aide offered a defense of the administration’s international agenda that tip toed past the misreading Russia issue suggests that despite their evident discomfort and concern, the President’s foreign policy inner circle hasn’t yet come up with a strategy for national much less international leadership in our increasingly tumultuous world.

Published on April 29, 2014 10:30 am
  • Boritz

    “A public failure of this magnitude, (comparable in a way to George W.
    Bush launching a war to stop a WMD program that he then failed to find)
    is profoundly damaging to public confidence in a political leader”

    Public confidence is expressed as the approval rating which so far is pretty impervious.

    • Andrew Allison

      it’s fallen from 28% to 21%, a 25% decline, in the past year.

      • Jim__L

        RCP reports 43.3% approve vs. 52.5% disapprove.

        This time last year — 48.5% approve vs. 46.9% disapprove.

        He bottomed out at the beginning of December, 38.5% approving and 55.9% disapproving.

  • Breif2

    “President Obama sounded edgy and frustrated when defending his foreign policy”

    You’re frustrated?!

    • throatdog

      Why does everything happen to poor Obama?!

      • https://twitter.com/davidjkramer DavidKramer

        Poor Obama, having to defend his policies. That’s racist!

  • pabarge

    Walter Russell Mead voted for Barack Obama.

    • Breif2

      Paul A’Barge advocates voting for a Democrat over Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

  • throatdog

    Singles and Doubles. Obama should be so fortunate. He’s fouled out on every single thing.

    • LizardLizard

      Well, we had a nice cold winter, though, didn’t we? I think he reversed global warming, right, or was it the seas stopped rising, or something, yeah?

      • throatdog

        ;-)

  • https://twitter.com/davidjkramer DavidKramer

    You just do not understand Obama’s “smart diplomacy.” It is not the actual outcome that is important, it is the process. Just like everything else with leftards, the outcome has nothing to do with it, the important part is the intentions. Of course, you sooner or later have to ask, if they continue to get crappy outcomes, yet continue the same policies, their intentions might not be what they say they are.

    • LizardLizard

      Yes, exactly, and Communism was supposed to be a worker’s paradise.

  • Reginald Pettifogger

    “…his reasonably successful Asia trip…”
    I suppose that not having anyone declare war on us during this trip makes it ‘reasonably successful’.

    • Bandit Keena

      Well more successful than the MA370 trip

    • Gregale

      “Reasonably successful?”

      What? Did he win another Peace Prize?

  • JMHanes

    “A public failure of this magnitude, (comparable in a way to George W. Bush…)”

    In what putative “way” are these two failures usefully “comparable?” I’m surprised to find such careless analogizing here, of all places. Indeed, this sounds far more like the kind of formulaic, parenthetical, disclaimer liberals feel compelled to include whenever they voice any criticism of Obama — presumably to avoid risking their credibility with less tolerant friends and colleagues. Acknowledging an Obama blunder is acceptable (but only when paired with an equal or greater blunder committed by one or more former presidents, preferably Bush). Surely, after 6 very long years, it’s possible to assess Obama’s uniquely feckless foreign policy on its own terms.

  • http://wizbangblog.com/ Adjoran

    “reasonably successful” is an odd characterization, but for Obama, any trip where he didn’t manage to offend any allies, encourage any foes, or give away any sovereign territory to aggressors is considered successful.

    Before they let Ed Henry ask the embarrassing question “Why are you such a total screw-up loser?” the toughest question Obama got on the trip was from the South Korean press: “Did you like the green tea ice cream?”

    995 days to go.

  • Robbins Mitchell

    “Speak softly and carry a big stick”

    ~Teddy Roosevelt~

    “Shuck jively and carry a 5 iron”

    ~Barokeydoke Obozo~

  • sukietawdry

    The problem with Obama hitting singles and doubles is that he led us to believe he would have a .900 slugging percentage. In actuality, he would have been sent down to the minors long ago.