The White House certainly is its own worst enemy. No Republican could have done as masterful a job of discrediting Obamacare as the administration which rolled it out, misrepresented its impact on existing health insurance plans and choice of doctors, changed it by whim over and over again and then resorted to defending its disincentive to work as a feature, not a bug.
Even when the administration stumbles into a correct policy position (it is bound to happen once in a while), it flubs the execution and can’t explain its rationale. Ukraine is no exception. The administrations has figured out which side we are on. It understands the Ukrainian president is a thug and we should do something about it. So far, so good.
But in doing back-flips to avoid the need to project U.S. power and to declare ourselves interested in containing Russian aggression, President Obama bizarrely said the Ukrainian uprising and the bloodbath in Syria are not Cold War throwbacks; we just have a humanitarian concern that should guide us.
Then today the White House spokesman declared, “Our principal concern here does not lie in whether or not [Russian President] Vladimir Putin stands to gain or lose from the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.” This was no one-time slip of the tongue. The White House reiterated, “It is not necessarily related to any effort by former Cold War adversaries to try to get a foothold in one country or another.”
Really? That should be a wake-up call to our Eastern European allies and every place else Russia is threatening our allies and interests. It is stunning actually that the president — are we still a NATO member? — would deny interest in the territorial and political sovereignty of the former states of the Soviet Union. As the senior State Department official briefing the media Wednesday reminded us, for 22 years and four presidents we have said something quite different.
Dean Acheson famously left the Korean Peninsula out of a listing of areas of national interests. That invited aggression from the north and the Korean War began. The Obama administration’s statements in this case are worse than that: They disclaim interest in keeping Russia out of Europe. It would be as if Acheson had said, “It is not necessarily related to any effort by China to try to get a foothold in one country or another.”
At this point it’s hard to tell whether Obama is simply uniformed or trying to conceal how badly he has bollixed Russia policy or practicing some new, extreme form of isolationism. One thing is certain, however; Russia and every international adversary will take his administration’s words to heart. There are no more red lines, just green lights.