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August 07, 2014
Obama's Soft Words on Terrorism and Genocide
Obama's chief responsibilities, as he defines them, are golfing, and managing domestic political expectations.
When a President speaks fulsomely about a foreign policy crisis, he informs the public in no uncertain terms that something is badly wrong in the world.
He also, as a natural consequence, inculcates in them an expectation that something will be done about it.
If the public is informed that something is badly wrong in the world, they tend to give the president lower approval ratings, at least until they see that something will be done about it, at which point his ratings rise to their previous level, or, if the something done about it actually improves the situation, his ratings rise above where they'd been.
So alerting the public that Something Is Wrong creates a political risk for a president. Particularly if the president is strongly inclined not to do anything at all about it.
In that case, the president does not want to animate the public, rouse their passion, and stir their consciences. Doing so, of course, enlists them into supporting the idea of doing something, and if nothing is done, they will then hold it against the president.
Ron Fournier and Charles Krauthammer are stunned that Obama uses such passion-less passive-constructions and weak language to describe the outrages of Hamas, and barely speaks at all about ISIS.
But it makes perfect political sense for Obama to do so.
He does not wish to stir the public, because he does not wish to do anything about these things. Ergo, it makes sense for him to use the most soporific language possible in speaking about Hamas and ISIS.
Watching the press conference yesterday, I noticed how dreamy and sleepy the president's words were.
But this I think is no accident. He wants the public to go to sleep. He does not want them to rise at the sound of alarm; he wants them to hit the snooze button and drift back into peaceful dreams.
A foreign policy crisis is only a political crisis for the president if the public is actually aware of the crisis and actively thinking about it.
If the American public is not so aware and actively engaged in a real foreign policy crisis, then it is no political crisis at all to the American president. In this case at least, a tree which falls in the forest with no one to hear it does not make any sound, nor any impression in Gallup's tracking polls.
Obama's words are calculated to "show concern" at a level acceptable to the most members of his voting base, while deliberately avoiding showing any sort of genuine concern which would actually prompt the public to expect, or even demand, action.
This is obvious to any American voter, at least to those few of us who care to pay attention.
Alas, it is also obvious to any foreign menace.
Obama is telling them, nearly explicitly, that he's not going to do anything about them, no matter how outrageous their violations, unless, somehow, their violations become so notorious that the American public finds out about them from someone other than the President, or, indeed, from someone other than the American media, which is all too willing to play stories at the precise level of unconcerned fake "concern" that Obama feels is in his best tactical political interests.
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