FREDERICK: A bad week for America


The enemies of the United States need not marginalize our country’s influence on the world stage. President Barack Obama did it all by himself last week in bungling the so-called Syria crisis.

Upon that, the left, the right and the middle agree.

“Amateur hour” said one observer. “Historic incompetence,” said another. The “collapse” of a presidency, suggested still another.

On the website RealClearPolitics.com, which collects political commentary from around the nation and from different perspectives into one place, the following five commentaries appeared in a row on Wednesday, the day after the president’s speech. The chorus is clear: This president is not up to the job.

If you are still a true believer in hope and change, you might want to take your blood pressure medicine before reading on.

From Peggy Noonan of The Wall Street Journal: “(G)et ready for the spin job of all spin jobs. It’s already begun. … It is that Syria was not a self-made mess, an example of historic incompetence. It was Obama’s Cuban Missile Crisis — high-stakes, eyeball-to-eyeball, with weapons of mass destruction and an implacable foe. The steady waiting it out, the inner anguish, the idea that crosses the Telex that seems to soften the situation. A cool, calibrated, chancy decision to go with the idea, to make a measured diplomatic concession. In the end, it got us through the crisis.

“Really, they’re going to say this. And only in part because this White House is full of people who know nothing — really nothing — about history.”

From Maureen Dowd of The New York Times: “The administration’s saber-rattling felt more like knees rattling. Oh, for the good old days when Obama was leading from behind. Now these guys are leading slip-of-the-tongue.

“Amateur hour started when Obama dithered on Syria and failed to explain the stakes there. It escalated last August with a slip of the methodical wordsmith about ‘a red line for us’ — which the president and Kerry later tried to blur as the world’s red line, except the world was averting its eyes. … Once again, as with gun control and other issues, he had not done the groundwork necessary to line up support.”

From William J. Dobson of Slate, under the headline “Dazed and Confused — If your foreign policy has to be rescued by a dictator, you are doing it wrong,” came this assessment: “Give President Obama credit: He has done such a good job of acting unpredictably in the leadup to his proposed military strike on Syria that no one knows what he will do next. He has successfully confused ally and enemy alike. Sun Tzu would be proud.”

From Jonathan Chait of the Daily Intelligencer: “President Obama’s East Room speech tonight was unusual, and probably unique, because it raised throughout the question: Why are you giving this speech? It was originally conceived as an argument for military action in Syria, but then two things happened in quick succession to make that moot. First, public opinion turned from skeptical to wildly hostile, especially among Republicans, killing any chance of passage in the House. Next, John Kerry, or perhaps Albert Brooks, set off an accidental chain of events that relocated the crisis into the diplomatic realm.”

From Peter Wehner of Commentary Magazine: “Russia is now establishing itself as the preeminent power in the region, having displaced the United States. American prestige and credibility lie in ruins. President Obama has succeeded in undermining the moderate rebels he promised to assist. He has strengthened the murderous anti-American regime he declared he wanted gone. … This period may well turn out to be a hinge moment in the Middle East — and one of the worst diplomatic chapters in modern American history.”

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the royal flush of political consensus. It’s the full Mexican combo plate, with guacamole and sour cream.

We are an idea-rich, politically diverse nation. That’s why it is so astounding to see opposites such as Slate magazine and Commentary Magazine so forcefully hammer home one point: President Obama’s presidency, at least when it comes to foreign policy, is a freaking mess.

Sherman Frederick, former publisher of the Las Vegas Review-Journal and member of the Nevada Newspaper Hall of Fame, writes a column for Stephens Media. Read his blog at www.reviewjournal.com/columns-blogs/sherman-frederick.