With media attention focused on Chris Christie and Bridgegate, it was easy to miss a more important Washington story last week. The other shoe dropped on the Obama presidency.
Still battered at home by the ObamaCare debacle and the permanently sluggish economy, the last thing the White House wanted was bad news on foreign policy. But that’s exactly what it got, and then some, thanks to the shockingly scathing book by Robert Gates.
The former defense secretary offers the most devastating critique to come from an Obama insider. He paints the president as estranged from the very Afghan military surge he ordered and suspicious of and hostile toward top leaders of the armed forces.
Gates is especially critical of Vice President Joe Biden, writing that he has been “wrong on nearly every major foreign-policy and national-security issue over the past four decades.”
He blames Biden and others for leading Obama to believe that military leaders were giving the president “the bum’s rush” in seeking more troops in Afghanistan in 2009, according to excerpts.
“Suspicion and distrust of senior military officers by senior White House officials — including the president and vice president — became a big problem for me,” Gates writes.
Hillary Rodham Clinton also comes off as a craven politician, with Gates saying he witnessed Clinton confess to Obama that she opposed the 2007 Iraq surge because she thought it would help her 2008 presidential campaign.
The book, set for release this week, carries extra sting because Gates is a widely respected team player who served presidents from both parties. The former head of the CIA, he led the Pentagon under George W. Bush and Obama.
His status as a kind of one-man blue-ribbon panel makes it impossible to refute his charges. The result is that the existing image of Obama as incompetent on domestic policies is now twinned with one of incompetence abroad. And those views are rapidly hardening into fixed conventional wisdom.
The implications are enormous for the three years left in his term. “It makes him even more of a lame duck,” says Ed Rollins, a GOP wise man . He says Obama, whose approval number is stuck at about 40 percent, won’t be welcome to campaign for most Democrats during this year’s election.
“Most will say, ‘Thanks but no thanks, just send the money,’ ” Rollins adds.
And Obama’s lack of commitment to the war on terror is something our enemies already figured out and are exploiting.
Longtime al Qaeda expert Peter Bergen pulls together disturbing developments previously reported only in piecemeal fashion. “From around Aleppo in western Syria to small areas of Falluja in central Iraq, al Qaeda now controls territory that stretches more than 400 miles across the heart of the Middle East,” Bergen writes for CNN, and adds, “Al Qaeda appears to control more territory in the Arab world than it has done at any time in its history.”
Others note that borders are being erased as terror groups carve out safe havens in several countries. Even The New York Times took a rare break from its propaganda approach to Obama, seeing a “power vacuum” and “a post-American Middle East in which no broker has the power, or the will, to contain the region’s sectarian hatreds.”
It later added a frightening note, reporting that intelligence officials say Syrian Islamists are trying to recruit Americans to carry out terror attacks here.
This “parade of horribles” largely reflects a proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia for Muslim supremacy that is spreading because Obama has abdicated global leadership. Adding a nuclear-armed Iran to the dangerous mix is a terrifying prospect to many in the region.
But not to worry, the administration is on the case. Secretary of State John Kerry paid his 10th visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories in a frantic, and relatively pointless, effort to get a peace treaty.
And President Obama returned from his 17-day, $4 million vacation in Hawaii and promptly denounced income inequality. On Friday, the Justice Department said it would recognize gay marriage in Utah, even though the state doesn’t.
And the band played on.
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