Different Shoes, Different Feet
Before I settle on a position for any given political issue, one of the things I attempt to do is submit myself to what I call an ideological litmus test. And because we all love acronyms, I will henceforth refer to it as the “ILT”. The test is pretty simple and thus far it has been incredibly effective in keeping me honest. The ILT consists of a single question:
Would I have the same reaction if the roles were reversed?
For instance, if President Obama were to say something with which I disagree, I would pretend it was one of the Presidents Bush (or even President Reagan) who said it. I do the same thing for congressmen, political pundits, columnists, bloggers, media personalities, etc. This approach instantly changes the trajectory of the message from oppositional to collaborative (or vice versa depending on circumstance). And in today’s charged, polarized, antagonistic political climate, trajectory matters. It matters a lot.
My fundamental goal in incorporating the ILT is to make sure I’m not adopting political positions like a mindless ideologue. I want my opinions (and the justifications for those opinions) to be reasoned and equitable and fair. It’s a fairly simple process and I think it has been effective in providing balance and context to any given issue.
I have also been doing it a lot lately, and I have expanded the ILT as well. Instead of just using my personal perspective as a frame of reference, I have been substituting an actual politician (or political group) for a hypothetical one to see if the interactions remain consistent.
It is possible this is all just a diversion and interesting only to me, but I hope that isn’t the case. I hope it is instructive (possibly even illuminating) to consider the following example scenarios:
MORE FLEXIBILITY FOR PUTIN; NOT SO MUCH FOR BOEHNER
In March of 2012, President Obama, in a conversation regarding U.S. missile defense systems in Europe, assured Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, “This is my last election. After my election, I have more flexibility.”
The clear implication (“…my last election…”) was that President Obama wouldn’t be as accountable to the public after the 2012 election because he wouldn’t be eligible to run again in 2016. But it also implied that, despite public opinion or political opposition, President Obama would be willing to collaborate with Russia.
And I have been running that statement through permutations of my ILT ever since.
FOR EXAMPLE, can you imagine President Obama leaning over to Eric Cantor, arguably Medvedev’s allegorical counterpart in the House of Representatives, and asking him to relay to John Boehner (the Speaker of the House) the message that the POTUS would have “more flexibility” to work with Republicans after the election? No? Does that seem out of character for the President? Yes it does. In fact it seems completely unfathomable.
This is particularly true, since ~3 years ago during the 2010 midterm elections, President Obama referred to Republicans as his enemies. Or more accurately, he alluded to Republicans as enemies of Latinos and admonished those Latinos to, “…punish our enemies…” and “reward our friends who stand with us on issues that are important to us.”
This is admittedly a single example, but the example is undeniably emblematic of the Obama administration approach to political relations; antagonistic and hostile nations and non-state actors abroad are treated as potential allies, whereas domestic political opponents are treated as enemies. In fact, this has been such a pervasive and consistent approach that it might reasonably concluded that it constitutes the core of the Obama Doctrine.
This Doctrine is also central to the Associated Press, Fox News, EPA, and IRS scandals currently plaguing the administration. It seems clear at this point that one of two things must be true regarding all three of these scandals (as well as several other stories and scandals in the past 4 ½ years):
- (a) The White House has explicitly directed subordinates and dotted-line subordinates to use the power of the federal government in order to reward political allies and damage political opponents wherever possible.
- (b) Subordinates and dotted-line subordinates have assumed that such a mandate exists based on the rhetoric of President Obama himself, and those subordinates have never been disabused of that notion by anyone in the Obama administration.
There are myriad ways in which the ILT can be applied to the scandals, the treatment of the scandals, the optics of the scandals, etc. But what intrigues me more than anything is how predictable all of these scandals were given the aforementioned propensity of the Obama administration to treat Republican opponents as enemies rather than patriotic, principled opponents.
CAIRO, RO, RO YOUR BOAT…BUT NOT TO ISRAEL
To further the point, consider that in 2009 President Obama chose as his first speech abroad to deliver a “New Beginnings” speech to a largely Muslim audience in Cairo, Egypt. The speech was intended to reset the tone of relations between the United States and the Islamic world, and presumably it brought to bear the force of President Obama’s substantial cult of personality to achieve that reset.
The choice to focus on Cairo and Islam as the Presidents first foreign address seemed well-intentioned (if somewhat naïve). But at least the POTUS scooted on over to Israel immediately thereafter, right? To mollify Israeli leadership and assure them the slight was necessary to advance the U.S cause in the war on terror? To give a similar speech about resetting the tone and tenor of U.S. relations in the region and ensuring the continued assistance of Israel and Israelis everywhere in order to ensure the success of that reset?
After all, it’s only 265 miles from Cairo to Jerusalem, and in Air Force One the POTUS could be there in under an hour.
One would hope so, but the answer is no. The President didn’t scoot over anywhere close to Israel during that inaugural trip abroad. In fact, the President didn’t visit Israel at all during his first term as President. President Obama’s first visit to Israel was in March of 2013; just 3 months ago and 2 months into his second term.
To reiterate, President Obama chose to shun the only functioning democracy in the Middle East, the most (and arguably only) free state in the Middle East, and the lone unwavering political and ideological ally the United States has in the area.
Instead, the Obama administration chose to honor the Hosni Mubarak regime in Egypt with his first foreign speech. A Mubarak regime that, while allied with the U.S. in several important regards, was also demonstrably abusive of the Egyptian people. Oh, and not coincidentally it was the same Egypt that ousted Mubarak and is now ruled by a Fundamentalist Islamic Army (the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces).
With the benefit of hindsight, is it conceivable that President Obama would have visited Israel and shunned the neighboring States instead? Is it reasonable to believe that he might have just as easily supported our allies and ignored or even frustrated those nations and non-state actors purposefully arrayed against the United States?
I don’t believe so. I believe all available evidence shows that President Obama treats antagonistic nation-states (and even hostile non-state actors) with more deference and humility than he directs at either our allies abroad OR his patriotic opposition in the homeland.
This fact has been made plain numerous times in President Obama’s approach to Benjamin Netanyahu, the Prime Minister of Israel. One has only to enter “Obama Netanyahu snub” into any Internet search engine to read a litany of incidents in which the POTUS made his antipathy regarding his personal relationship with the Israeli PM clear.
Among those examples was the infamous open mic incident, wherein President Obama told French President Nicholas Sarkozy, “You’re fed up with him but I have to deal with him more often than you.”
ADVANCING THE STORY
Most of these events are plainly years old. My purpose in mentioning them is not republish yesterday’s news. Rather, it is to demonstrate that the abusive behaviors that have come to the forefront in recent weeks are absolutely consistent with the tenets and behaviors the Obama administration has embraced since the very beginning of President Obama’s first term.
There are literally thousands of ILT questions that result from all of these circumstances. Arguably the most obvious is;
How would a different President handle the current scandals?
I think that misses the point somewhat. The more pertinent question is;
Would a different President have allowed his subordinates to embrace overreaching and abusive practices in order to damage his political opponents?
If the ILT was a Magic 8 Ball the answer might very well be “Ask Richard Nixon”. However, setting aside that singular example, President Obama really does seem to be in a class by himself.
Sadly, substitutions simply do not do justice to the extent of abuses his administration has foisted on the American public.