August 8, 2014–We’re in the soup now! Barack Obama has been notoriously shy with White House television cameras. If you pay attention to these things you’ll have noticed that Obama shuns newsmaking appearances at the White House, preferring to show himself only on social occasions. So when the president suddenly interrupted prime time television for a personal appearance last night, you have to agree it’s important. And it was: the United States is going back into Iraq. After exiting from that costly and stupid war–a withdrawal on which Obama campaigned for the presidency–he is heading back in because the Islamic Caliphate (also called ISIS) threatens the residual Iraqi government.
What a mess. Fighting the Caliphate, which controls portions of both Iraq and Syria; and which, in Syria, is part of the effort to overthrow Bashar al-Assad, may be a humanitarian response but it puts the United States in an impossible position. In Syria, after all, the U.S. is with the rebels pushing to oust Assad too. So the U.S. is allied with ISIS in Syria and fighting it in Iraq? This is worse that “the enemy of your enemy is your friend.” This puts the U.S. on both sides of the Syrian civil war while pretending to have nothing to do with it. And in Iraq we are on the verge of full scale intervention in a senseless conflict.
Sad to say this kind of muddle is becoming characteristic of Obama policies. The healthcare rollout disaster is a domestic example. Time and again Mr. Obama makes a good analysis of the problem but is then incapable of sticking to his guns. President Obama is also tragically inconsistent. Consider the other major development yesterday–Obama’s signature of a law trying to make corrections in another mess we have, that of care at Veterans Administration hospitals. Compare that to . . . wait for it! . . . his treatment of intelligence matters. Here are some quotes from what Mr. Obama said on August 7 at Fort Belvoir, Virginia:
“Over the last few months, we’ve discovered some inexcusable misconduct. . . . It was outrageous.” He said that about VA hospitals. But what about the CIA? Its infiltration of computer systems belonging to Congress was excusable? No it wasn’t. What about intelligence boss Fearful Clapper deliberately lying to Congress when asked a direct question on dragnet surveillance of Americans? Excusable? No. What about the NSA surveillance itself? Mr. Obama seems to think that’s OK. Many would disagree.
At Fort Belvoir about the VA: “We’re instituting a critical culture of accountability.” Where is the equivalent action taken in regard to the spies?
On the VA scandal: “If you engage in an unethical practice, if you cover up a serious problem, you should be fired. Period. It shouldn’t be that difficult.” The CIA not only engaged in an “unethical practice,” it tried to evade accountability by accusing Congress of criminality. Repeated lying by the ODNI and the directors of NSA and CIA have not only not been met by accountability, the president has invited these people to White House dinners.
“And if you blow the whistle on an unethical practice, or bring a problem to the attention of higher-ups, you should be thanked. You should be protected for doing the right thing. You shouldn’t be ignored, and you certainly shouldn’t be punished.” Edward Snowden has not only not been thanked, President Obama failed to speak up when characters like Representative Mike Rogers or former NSA/CIA director Michael Hayden talked about wanting him dead. And there has been plentiful mention of punishing the whistleblower at all levels in the Obama administration. Indeed, the criminal indictment the CIA couldn’t get away with, in its attempt to chill Congress, has already been opened for Snowden.
President Obama has good instincts but he can’t seem to apply them consistently. Accountability is good for the Veterans Administration but it does not apply to the intelligence community. Non-intervention is good in Syria but does not apply in Iraq, even if it leaves the United States mired on both sides of the conflict. Whistleblowers should be protected, except where they should get life in prison.
A recent poll that sought opinions on the performance of recent American presidents found Mr. Obama in last place. Even behind Richard Nixon if you can imagine that. If you want an explanation, here’s mine: President Obama’s expressed intentions have fallen so far short of his actions that citizens no longer feel they can believe in him.