Considering he’s the most timorous and geopolitically unformed President since Jimmy Carter, Barack Obama is remarkably prolific when it comes to slaughtering straw men. Take for example his recent press conference hissy fit in Malaysia. Or it may have been a calculated outburst, it’s hard to tell with this guy. Ostensibly a defense of his nuanced, highly sophisticated foreign policy, by the time Obama was done hyperventilating, the field was so strewn with straw man corpses, it bore a striking resemblance to one of that noted education reformer Bashar Assad’s charter school projects.
Slaughtering straw men is one of the president’s favorite rhetorical devices. When faced with criticism, he presumes to define the terms his critics used, generally in a manner bearing no more connection with reality than his administration’s policy toward, say, Iran. He then proceeds to demolish the arguments nobody has made.
In Malaysia he imputed to his foreign policy critics a desire to invade foreign countries, or to put boots on the ground, in one of his favorite phrases. They still haven’t learned the lessons from our disastrous involvement in Iraq, he charged. What is the matter with these people? How on earth can they continue to pursue the misguided, failed policies of the past? Obama’s arguments completely destroyed all those critics calling for us to invade every country that looks at us cross-eyed. The only problem with his rhetorical victory is nobody has made the arguments he just blew out of the water.
And that’s the seductive appeal of the Straw Man approach. If you put words in your critics’ mouths, it’s easy to destroy them. When Obama opens a can of Whupp Ass on his critics, he looks like Rambo. Okay, he looks like Rambo with skinny arms, but still, that’s a whole lotta mayhem raining down.
Even Rambo, er, Obama knows he can only take this Straw Man thing so far. Here’s what he said about Syria. “Those who criticize our foreign policy with respect to Syria, they themselves say, ‘No, no, no, we don’t mean sending in troops.’ Well, what do you mean? ‘Well, you should be assisting the opposition.’ Well, we’re assisting the opposition. What do you mean? “Well, perhaps you should have taken a strike in Syria to get chemical weapons out of Syria.” Well, it turns out we’re getting chemical weapons out of Syria without having initiated a strike. So what are you talking about? And at that point it kind of trails off.”
What can we learn from this sophomoric outburst? One, we can conclude it’s not just tobacco the President is still when Michelle isn’t looking. This sort of incoherent recapping of an amazing internal dialogue suggests that the Choom Gang is alive and well and hanging out by the White House basketball court.
We can also conclude that the reason it “kind of trails off” at the point where Obama brags about getting chemical weapons out of Syria is because his imaginary interlocutor considers it rude to say, “Really, Mr. President? Tell me, are you lying to my face or are you really that stupid? Because anybody who can read a newspaper knows that Syria has missed every deadline you’ve extended for turning over the chemical weapons they say they have. We don’t even know about the rest of them because there’s no independent inspection team to verify. Furthermore, you may recall the only reason we’ve gotten this far is because Vladimir Putin came riding to the rescue. Do you remember when you were wilting from an attack of the vapors because grown ups in Washington said you needed to do something because Assad violated what you called a red line? Do you remember how panicked you were? Do you remember denying ever calling it a Red Line? Do you remember how you crumpled in Putin’s big, strong arms when he untied you from the railroad tracks like Dudley Dooright?”
“Did you ever stop to think, Mr. President, that if you hadn’t proved yourself worse than a coward over Syria, that Russia might not have invaded Crimea? Did you stop to think how far your foreign policy is from robust? Did you ever stop to think that what you call a calibrated, low-profile set of diplomatic maneuvers’ is the geopolitical version of hiding in a bathroom stall until the jocks have gone off to football practice?”
That’s probably the main reason your critics start drifting off at that point.
We’ve gotten to a pathetic point in history where people want to believe our president actually intends to destroy American power as a force for good in the world, because it is hard to imagine someone stupid enough to do this by accident.
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