The world looks to America in times like this. Governments and business leaders want a basic framework sothey can make decisions. What they get from the Obama White House, too often, is silence.
This crystal clear and concise truth is in today’s column in the Washington Post by David Ignatius. I must confess that I do not read the Washington Post or rely on it to form my perspective on events. I have heard of David Ignatius and occasionally read a column or two, before today’s column but he hasn’t struck me as a ‘go to guy’ in the same way that I regard Thomas Sowell or Victor Davis Hanson.
But I have to admit that Ignatius’s quote above is right on the money. The frustrating part is that this clarity is surrounded by a muddled mass of inconsistency as the author tries to make the point that the President ‘has the right instincts’ but somehow his inability to communicate keeps him from being able to ‘close the deal.’ To Ignatius, for part of his column, it isn’t the message, but the messenger – a huge turnabout from the past several years of gushing praise by others about the President’s impressive communication skills.
Then Ignatius veers back toward clarity with some other observations, before heading straight for the ditch (to use one of the President’s favorite analogies):
The debt-limit crisis is a scary example of this tendency to follow, rather than lead. Through 2010, the Obama White House kept its distance from deficit-reduction proposals, and, when it finally entered the fray, it was in the person of Vice President Biden. One official told me bluntly last year that floating proposals too early was a loser, politically.
So Obama waited. His policy ideas, now that they’re public, look pretty solid. But rather than uniting the country behind a vision for reforming entitlements and taxes, he looks like a man being dragged into church by a firebrand preacher named Eric Cantor. The Republicans look bad, but so does Obama.
Once again, he correctly points to the President’s ‘distance from deficit reduction talks’ — but completely misses the point that the $Trillion deficits that the President has deployed are what hastened the need for talks in the first place. This isn’t a problem with communication — this is a problem with Mr. Ignatius’s failure to see the truth before his very own eyes, and failure to hear the President’s own words about income redistribution and his belief that health care reform would reduce future deficits.
I strongly believe that Mr. Ignatius would fail if he attempted to explain what the President’s “policy ideas, now that they’re public” really are….and if he did, I doubt that they would “look pretty solid.” I’ve heard several radio pundits make the compelling case that the President, by his position, is saying that high speed rail and student loans are more important than social security payments and money for disabled veterans — that is not solid, that’s silly.
But he’s not done. Mr. Ignatius then writes this about the President’s foreign policy:
The same is true for the Arab Spring. Obama has had it about right, in policy terms. U.S. strategy is a sensible mix of pragmatism and principle. America supports the movements for democratic change in the autocratic republics, such as Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen and Syria. It respects the more conservative traditions of the pro-Western monarchies and sheikdoms, such as Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco and Kuwait. This distinction isn’t complicated, it just needs to be explained.
So the policy that has led to the insertion of the Muslim Brotherhood into what started out as an uprising for democracy is “a sensible mix of pragmatism and principle.” Exactly what is the principle? Why can’t we all express the principle in 25 words or less if is indeed sensible? And what are we to make of the involvement in Libya, which has gone on in confused fashion for “months, not weeks,” to reverse the President’s public promise? What are we to make of the hundreds being gunned down in the streets of Syria as all of this transpires? “This isn’t complicated, it just needs to be explained.” So why hasn’t it been explained? This isn’t a failure of communications — this is a failure of leadership.
But in the end, you can’t really blame Mr. Ignatius. Look at the bewildering confusion and lack of leadership he has as source material. The administration hasn’t provided a lot of clarity and coherence to work with.