Barack Obama – a man whose instincts towards Caesarism don’t quite fit under the rug – has a bad habit of becoming triumphalist in the aftermath of electoral victory. In 2009, only a few days into his presidency, Obama told a group of Republican congressmen who were at the White House to discuss the shape of his stimulus plan that he needn't seriously consider their proposal to tilt the package more heavily towards tax cuts because “I won.” So much for there not being red states and blue states.
Less than 72 hours after winning a second term, Obama announced himself unwilling to entertain Republican alternatives to raising income tax rates on high earners, pronouncing that “this was a central question during the election” and “a majority of Americans agree with my approach.”
Now that obstinance is extending itself to foreign affairs, where the president has become intransigent on objections to U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice succeeding Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State.
Though Rice’s widely anticipated nomination has not yet been announced, Obama was already digging in his heels on the issue at last weeks press conference in the East Room of the White House. It was Rice who had the unenviable task of working the Sunday morning talk show circuit to peddle the White House’s official line: that the attacks were the spontaneous result of a crowd of protesters whipped into a violent frenzy by a YouTube video. With that narrative subsequently shown to have been utterly false (there wasn’t even a crowd of protesters present during the attack), the administration's credibility has suffered a huge hit – and so has Rice’s.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, whose image benefits from her lack of the basic incompetence that plagues much of the rest of Obama’s team, still makes her fair share of mistakes – from announcing that the U.S. would quit pressuring China on human rights violations to spending more time condemning the producer of the YouTube film supposedly responsible for the Benghazi attacks than the attackers themselves.
Even under the spotlight of congressional testimony, Attorney General Eric Holder refused to associate terrorism with radical Islam. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano prefers to avoid the word “terrorism” altogether, instead favoring the phrase “man-caused disasters.”
These are not serious people. And the figures likely to join or replace them in a second Obama term look to be more of the same. They are indictments of the judgment of the President himself, whose personnel decisions are symptomatic of a broader pathology: being consistently over matched by foreign policy.
The fish rots from the head. As long as Obama is in the Oval Office, don’t expect any improvements.