Mark Aug. 31, 2013, on your calendar as the day on which Barack Obama passed James Earl Carter in the pantheon of hapless presidents and set out for parts yet unknown.
September was always going to be a bad month for this president, as the run-up to the Oct. 1 date to open exchanges in Obama’s historic and hopeless health care achievement was bound to be full of unpleasant surprises.
But whoever dreamed that his foreign policy, so far as he has one, would implode at just the same time? Clearly, he never meant to do a thing about Syria, but his careless words about red lines came back to bite him, and he had to do something — or did he?
He was geared up to go, and then he recalled that he ought to ask Congress, and it wouldn’t matter if his surprise attack came today or possibly weeks in the future.
So he might have to wait for some time to get authorization from Congress, but if he didn’t, he might go ahead anyhow. This was terribly urgent, but he couldn’t call Congress back from vacation.
“Mush From the Wimp” didn’t begin to describe it. And then he went off to play golf.
Failing to anticipate the effects of his words, thoughts, and deeds upon both events and the people who drive them has always been the mark of this president, who has seldom missed the chance to take a bad hand and weaken it further, and then place the blame somewhere else.
Who could have dreamed that Obamacare’s mandates would make people stop hiring, and prolong the recession? Or that passing an unpopular bill against the fiercely expressed will of the people through an in-your-face tactic just short of illegal would create a fierce and entrenched opposition, in which a Republican House and 30 angry state governments would constantly thwart him?
And who ever dreamed that his patented blend of incoherence, bluster, back-downs and dithering would leave Syria’s Bashar Assad triumphant, the rebels deflated, allies despairing, the British Parliament saying "no thank you," and his credibility in highly predictable tatters?
Surely not the man Michael Beschloss once described as our most brilliant president, and whose genius and judgment, as many assured us, put everyone else in the shade.
In June 1961, John F. Kennedy left a meeting with Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev knowing the Russian saw him as a weakling, and anguished about it until October 1962 when the chance came to change that impression.
Kennedy’s decisive actions in the Cuban Missile Crisis put him on the list of men between Truman and Reagan (Carter excepted) who helped hold the line in the Cold War, bringing it in to its unexpected soft landing, and its velvet, non-violent, end.
But a president who fails to see the power of perceptions like these in the many calculations that lead men of ill will to the deployment of violence is a danger to any country of any size whatsoever — and a calamity in the case of a truly great power on whom the fate of us all must depend.
We had a president like that for four years in the late 1970’s, and now it appears that we have one again, another Nobel Peace Prize winner (mainly for platitudes); another false messiah (the preachy Carter was known as “JC” by his allies); another man who believed in reducing the military; another man who said that the fear of the threat of the moment — the “Evil Empire” or radical Islam — was overdrawn and “inordinate.”
We got over Carter, but it wasn't easy. Let’s pray a new Reagan is there waiting in the wings.