The split-screen told the story: on one side, images of the terror bombing in Brussels; on the other, Barack Obama doing the wave with Raul Castro at a baseball game in Havana.
On one side, the real world of rising global terrorism. On the other, the Obama fantasy world in which romancing a geopolitically insignificant Cuba – without an ounce of democracy or human rights yielded in return – is considered a seminal achievement of American diplomacy.
When Brussels intervened, some argued that Obama should have come back home. I disagree. You don’t let three suicide bombers control the itinerary of the American president. Moreover, Obama’s next stop, Argentina, is actually important and had just elected a friendly government that broke from its long and corrupt Peronist past.
Nonetheless, Obama could have done without the baseball. What message does it send to be yukking it up with Raul as Belgian authorities are picking body parts off the floor of the Brussels airport?
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Obama came into office believing that we had vastly exaggerated the threat of terrorism and allowed it to pervert both our values and our foreign policy. He declared a unilateral end to the global war on terror and downplayed the threat ever since.
It’s been seven years. The world has refused to accommodate Obama’s pacifistic dreams. The Islamic State has grown from JV team to worldwide threat. It is well into the infiltration phase of its European campaign, with 500 trained cadres in place among the estimated 5,000 jihadists returned from the Middle East. The increasing tempo and sophistication of its operations suggest that it may be poised for a continent-wide guerrilla campaign.
In the face of this, Obama remains inert, unmoved. His nonreaction to the Belgian massacre left the world stunned. Worse, at his now notorious November news conference in Turkey, his only show of passion regarding the Paris massacre was to berate Islamophobes.
David Axelrod called Obama’s response “tone deaf.” But this is more than a mere mistake of presentation. Remember his reaction to the beheading of the American journalist James Foley? Obama made a statement expressing his sympathies – and then jumped onto his golf cart for a round of 18.
He later told NBC News’ Chuck Todd it was a mistake. “Part of this job is also the theater of it,” he said, “it’s not something that always comes naturally to me.” As if postponing arecreation was a piece of political playacting rather than a president’s natural reaction to the death of a citizen he could not save.
A few months ago, Obama teared up when speaking about the Sandy Hook school shooting. But when speaking about the work of Islamist terrorists, he offers flat perfunctory words.
I cannot fathom why. Perhaps having seen himself uniquely qualified to make peace between Islam and the West, to now recognize how badly things have gone on his watch is to admit both failure and the impossible grandiosity of his original pretensions.
Whatever the reason, he seems genuinely unmoved by a menace the rest of the world views, correctly, with horror and increasing apprehension. He’s been in office seven years, yet seems utterly fixed on his campaign promises and pre-presidential obsessions. Next we'll see yet another useless Washington “summit” on yet another Obama idee fixe: eliminating nuclear materials.
With the world on fire, the American president goes on ideological holiday. As was said of the Bourbons: “They have learned nothing and have forgotten nothing.”