The incredible shrinking President


Drew Dzwonkowski/New York Daily News

Hour by hour he gets smaller and smaller!

It wasn’t supposed to be like this.

For NY Daily NewsWalter Russell Mead writes: Less than two years after voters gave President Barack Obama a strong mandate for a second term, the White House is struggling against perceptions that it is losing its grip.

At home, the bungled rollout of the Obamacare website and the shocking revelations about an entrenched culture of incompetence and fraud in the VA have undercut faith in the President’s managerial competency.

“…Why, then, does a feisty President with more power than any of his peacetime predecessors, one who is determined to use those powers to the max, look so much a victim of events he can’t control?”

Abroad, a surging Russia, an aggressive China, a war torn Middle East and a resurgent terror network are putting his foreign policy credentials to the test. With the GOP hoping to seize control of the Senate in November’s midterm elections, and the inevitable decline in presidential power that occurs as second term presidents move toward lame-duck status, Obama risks being sidelined and marginalized for the remaining two years of his term. Read the rest of this entry »

Putin Smashes Washington’s Cocoon


For The American Interest, Walter Russell Mead writes:  A Politico report calls it “a crisis that no one anticipated.” The Daily Beastreporting on Friday’s US intelligence assessment that “Vladimir Putin’s military would not invade Ukraine,” quotes a Senate aide claiming that “no one really saw this kind of thing coming.”

“Well bred and well read Americans live in an ideological and cultural cocoon and this makes them fatally slow to understand the very different motivations that animate actors ranging from the Tea Party to the Kremlin…”

Op-eds from all over the legacy press this week helped explained why. Through the rose tinted lenses of a media community deeply convinced that President Obama and his dovish team are the masters of foreign relations, nothing poor Putin did could possibly derail the stately progress of our genius president. There were, we were told, lots of reasons not to worry about Ukraine. War is too costly for Russia’s weak economy. Trade would suffer, the ruble would take a hit. The 2008 war with Georgia is a bad historical comparison, as Ukraine’s territory, population and military are much larger. Invasion would harm Russia’s international standing. Putin doesn’t want to spoil his upcoming G8 summit, or his good press from Sochi. Putin would rather let the new government in Kiev humiliate itself with incompetence than give it an enemy to rally against. Crimea’s Tartars and other anti-Russian ethnic minorities wouldn’t stand for it. Headlines like “Why Russia Won’t Invade Ukraine,” “No, Russia Will Not Intervene in Ukraine,” and “5 Reasons for Everyone to Calm Down About Crimea” weren’t hard to find in our most eminent publications.

Read the rest of this entry »

Walter Russell Mead: Springtime in Kiev, or Just Another Winter Storm?


With a revolution on, the chances that events in Ukraine could provoke a dangerous confrontation between Russia and the West may be increasing.

Walter Russell Mead writes:  For the third time in a generation, there is revolution in Ukraine. For the second time in a decade, Viktor Yanukovych has been overthrown in Kiev. It is impossible not to rejoice that the goons and thugs who sought to tie Ukraine to Putin’s imperial project by massacring their fellow citizens in the streets of Kiev were defeated. But it is much too soon to conclude that the next Ukrainian government, whatever it may be, will be any more successful than its predecessors.

“The political leadership of virtually every major party or movement in Ukrainian life is sketchy at best; many are corrupt tools of business interests, some are inexperienced hotheads with ties to dubious forms of ultra-nationalist ideology…”

Worse, if anything the chances that events in Ukraine could provoke a dangerous confrontation between Russia and the West may be increasing.

[Check out Walter Russell Mead’s book “Special Providence: American Foreign Policy and How It Changed the World” at Amazon]

None of the core facts in Ukraine changed last night. Ukraine is a divided country with a weak state and ineffective institutions. The oligarchs who clawed their way to the top when communism collapsed still hold their ill-gotten gains, still manage their business affairs in the Wild East ways of the post-Soviet days, still dominate politics and economic development and have yet to be brought under any kind of effective legal control. Ukraine’s abject energy dependence on Russia creates a sea of political and economic problems which no Ukrainian government since independence has been able to manage.

Read the rest of this entry »

Yes, Again: Fracking Gets a Clean Bill of Health

Clean and green, baby

Clean and green, baby

Walter Russell Mead writes: The British government’s health agency is the latest body to give fracking a clean bill of health, in a move that should galvanize the country to act on its considerable reserves of shale gas. Reuters reports:

Public Health England (PHE) said in a review that any health impacts were likely to be minimal from hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, which involves the pumping of water and chemicals into dense shale formations deep underground….

“The currently available evidence indicates that the potential risks to public health from exposure to emissions associated with the shale gas extraction process are low if operations are properly run and regulated,” said John Harrison, director of PHE’s center for radiation, chemical and environmental hazards.

Don’t expect this to sway recalcitrant greens; one activist pointed out that “low risk is not the same as no risk,” which while semantically true, doesn’t belong in an energy policy discussion. Every energy source entails risks, from wind (bird deaths, anyone?) to coal, from solar (bird blindness) to, yes, shale gas. The goal, then, shouldn’t be to eliminate risk, but rather to minimize it. This new review suggests that that’s possible with shale gas.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Psychoanalysis Begins: The Abandoned, Disassociated, Absentee Presidency

Not one but three articles about president Obama’s state of mind. Not since the Nixon years has a president’s psychological temperament been exposed for examination:

1. Washington Post: Jennifer Rubin‘s Obamacare and the absentee presidency, 2. Peter Wehner‘s Obama disassociates from reality, and 3. Walter Russell Mead‘s Obama chewing gum while Syria burns.

Obama’s Daddy Issues Gave Him ‘Victim Mentality,’ So He Punishes America

Daddy Issues Gave Him ‘Victim Mentality,’ So He Punishes America

And that’s just print journalism. On the broadcast news side, Psychiatrist Dr. Keith Ablow appeared on Fox News last Wednesday to psychoanalyze President Barack Obama, claiming the president won’t negotiate with House Republicans because his father “abandoned” him… [VIDEO]

Are we seeing a pattern here?

Jennifer Rubin writes:

“Obama operates in a world without critical information — and that is his defense to two debacles. Critics understate the reluctance and inability of this president to lead and to govern. Primarily in the foreign policy context, his style has been characterized as dithering if not incoherent. But something more endemic and more worrisome is going on than simply “reluctant commander in chief” (although he certainly is that, too).

This is a president who set up a system in which he imagines he is relieved of responsibility. Someone else’s job. Not his problem. Didn’t know. Doesn’t matter why. He ‘s “madder” than anyone he keeps telling us, but not mad enough to make certain senior advisers tell him what is going on. He wants to be the victim (I’m mad!) and not the boss (Why didn’t I know this? Anyone who acts that way is fired!). This is intentional ignorance, inexcusable in a president…”

From Peter Wehner‘s article:

“About President Obama’s remarks on Monday in the Rose Garden on the matter of the problems plaguing the Affordable Care Act and, specifically,, it seemed to me that they served a valuable purpose, at least to this extent: They distilled the Obama presidency to some of its core qualities: (a) detachment from reality; (b) misleading in its claims; (c) deeply polarizing and partisan; and (d) filled with lame excuses.”

“The president spoke about ObamaCare as if it were a work of art, one or two brushstrokes away from being a masterpiece. Which created the impression that the president is living in a make believe world.”

Walter Russell Mead’s commentary after reading the NYT’s account of the Syria debacle:

“…the New York Times provides a sobering and damning account of the White House’s decision-making process over the past few years. A taste:

Even as the debate about arming the rebels took on a new urgency, Mr. Obama rarely voiced strong opinions during senior staff meetings. But current and former officials said his body language was telling: he often appeared impatient or disengaged while listening to the debate, sometimes scrolling through messages on his BlackBerry or slouching and chewing gum.

We note that virtually all of the sources for this story have to be members of the President’s close official circle. This is the story that his friends are telling. You really ought to read the whole thing.

We can only hope that this story’s facts are incomplete, because the picture of presidential decision-making and the dire consequences of failures of leadership for American policy portrayed here are appalling…”

“Unfortunately this story will also go far toward confirming the convictions of many leaders overseas that the current President of the United States is not up to the job…”

I predict that by 2017 there will be a stack of books about the President’s psychological issues, and their effect on decision making. The best part? Some of them will be written by senior policy advisors, cabinet appointees, and current White House Officials.

Europe Is Burning, Slowly

shutterstockmonWalter Russell Mead reports: I just spent two weeks traveling across Europe, visiting France, Italy, Germany, and Romania. Everywhere I went, people wanted to talk about Washington’s dispiriting budget shenanigans, the European implications of the “pivot to Asia” and the mess in the Middle East. But while the Europeans are more or less united on the subject of America’s shortcomings (they like Obama but don’t think his foreign policy is working well, they hate and fear the Tea Party, and they just don’t understand why we do what we do about guns and health care), it was on the subject of Europe that I found them the most divided.

In Italy, I heard from a range of people: industrialists, foreign policy thinkers and policymakers, and journalists. One message came through loud and clear. The Italians feel caught in a cruel trap; the euro is killing them but they don’t see any alternative. When a German visitor gave the conventional Berlin view (the southern countries got themselves into trouble by bad policy, and austerity is the only way out; budget discipline and cutting labor costs are the only way Italy can once again prosper), a roomful of Italians practically jumped on the table to denounce his approach.

Read the rest of this entry »

Contemplating three years without a President

ovalofficeLegal Insurrection‘s  writes: Having been mostly away from the internet these past two days, I’ve watched from afar how quickly things have turned on Syria. It’s amazing how Obama has gone from being backed into a corner to being on a ledge where his presidency is just a vote away from being over all but in name. It’s not that Obama was wrong to want to react to the use of chemical weapons. I was willing, at the outset, to give Obama the benefit of the doubt because the stakes were so high if the large-scale use by the Assad government of chemical weapons was proven. This goes far beyond the usual bloodletting when Syria, one of if not the largest stockpilers of chemical weapons, uses chemical weapons strategically. That Syria is in the heart of the Middle East, bordering three of our friends, and a puppet of Iran and Hezbollah, made the situation more dire and in our national interest to address. Read the rest of this entry »

The end product of 80 years of progressivism is….

Rolling Stone: Obama is the “Progressive Firewall”

If you’re looking for Obama hagiography and a featurette on “A Day in the Life of Tom Hanks,” then the new issue is all you. Today’s epitaph for what Walter Russell Mead calls “the blue social model”:

Viewed through the lens of history, Obama represents a new type of 21st-century politician: the Progressive Firewall. Obama, simply put, is the curator-in-chief of the New Deal, the Fair Deal, the New Frontier and the Great Society. When he talks about continued subsidies for Big Bird or contraceptives for Sandra Fluke, he is the inheritor of the Progressive movement’s agenda, the last line of defense that prevents America’s hard-won social contract from being defunded into oblivion.

The end product of 80 years of progressivism is … Big Bird and Sandra Fluke? I’d dare Obama to run on that, but he already is.


The Greenroom