Yesterday on Meet the Press Newt Gingrich explained why President Obama’s Syria policy is intellectually incoherent.
You cannot lead without communicating, Gingrich said. And you cannot communicate effectively if your policy contradicts itself:
If the strategy is inexplicable to a normal American, we're going to sort of punch you, but we're not going to punch you too hard, and we really would like you to leave, but we don't want you to leave enough to get rid of you, and we hope there's a political solution, although we haven't got a clue what it is.
I mean, that's very hard to build momentum for. And you have to be communicator in chief before you're commander in chief. And Tuesday night's speech I think really matters, because he has to show a coherence and a discipline and a directness that average Americans can identify with.
Gingrich continued that Obama could have bombed Syria and then given a speech announcing actions that he had taken as commander in chief:
And I think the decisive point was that Friday night walk with Denis where the president said, "I'm going to go to Congress." Prior to that, he literally could've bombed, done a national speech, and said, "Here's why I did it. I'm commander of chief."
By asking the permission of Congress Obama presented himself as weak and indecisive. American prestige has suffered. But his own prestige has suffered more.
In this morning’s Wall Street Journal Norman Podhoretz also summarized the president’s communication and conceptualization failure:
For how else to characterize a president who declares war against what he calls a great evil demanding immediate extirpation and in the next breath announces that he will postpone taking action for at least 10 days—and then goes off to play golf before embarking on a trip to another part of the world? As if this were not enough, he also assures the perpetrator of that great evil that the military action he will eventually take will last a very short time and will do hardly any damage. Unless, that is, he fails to get the unnecessary permission he has sought from Congress, in which case (according to an indiscreet member of his own staff) he might not take any military action after all.
Podhoretz rejects the idea that Obama is a bumbler. He suggests that Obama is just doing what he said he would do, radically transforming America.
Commenters on this blog and others have raised the issue: did Obama really believe the leftist rhetoric he heard when he sat, bewitched, in the pews of Jeremiah Wright’s church? Is he doing his best to diminish America? Is he disguising his intentions with just the right amount of double talk.
To those of us who took this declaration seriously, it meant that Mr. Obama really was the left-wing radical he seemed to be, given his associations with the likes of the anti-American preacher Jeremiah Wright and the unrepentant terrorist Bill Ayers, not to mention the intellectual influence over him of Saul Alinsky, the original "community organizer."…
As a left-wing radical, Mr. Obama believed that the United States had almost always been a retrograde and destructive force in world affairs. Accordingly, the fundamental transformation he wished to achieve here was to reduce the country's power and influence. And just as he had to fend off the still-toxic socialist label at home, so he had to take care not to be stuck with the equally toxic "isolationist" label abroad.
Whether he intended it or not, the consequences of Obama’s bungling the Arab Spring are clear:
First in Egypt, his incoherent moves resulted in a complete loss of American influence, and now, thanks to his handling of the Syrian crisis, he is bringing about a greater diminution of American power than he probably envisaged even in his wildest radical dreams.
Podhoretz believes that Obama is willing to sacrifice his reputation in order to change America for the worse:
For this fulfillment of his dearest political wishes, Mr. Obama is evidently willing to pay the price of a sullied reputation. In that sense, he is by his own lights sacrificing himself for what he imagines is the good of the nation of which he is the president, and also to the benefit of the world, of which he loves proclaiming himself a citizen.
But, if Obama sullies his reputation he will also be discrediting his project. He will be undermining his capacity to lead. If he becomes a laughing stock, any changes he instituted will also fall into disrepute. Once the nation catches on, it will be more likely to elect candidates who pledge to undo what Obama has done.
Or so we like to think.
Roger Simon, however, suggests that Obama’s mind is divided against itself. Even if he believes the leftist ideas that he heard in Chicago, he must also understand that, as President of the United States, he can only validate his beliefs if he succeeds. If he discredits himself, his project will fail with him.
Simon sees Obama as dazed and confused:
And Obama is genuinely blind in the deepest sense because he doesn’t really know who he is or what he stands for. That’s why he vacillates all the time. I realize many on the right feel, with some justification, that Obama is some kind of neo-socialist, anti-colonialist out of Frank Marshall Davis via Saul Alinsky, but I don’t even think he’s that. Or not only that. If Obama is Trotsky lite, it’s very lite indeed, a kind of uncommitted Trotsky that Stalin wouldn’t have bothered to assassinate. He’s not a particularly successful socialist, judging by his record, or even a particularly good crony capitalist (though a bit better at that).