The president has wistfully been thinking about how easy it would be to be the leader of the People's Republic of China, the New York Times reports. And one unnamed official told the Times's reporters that "No one is scrutinizing [Chinese leader] Hu Jintao's words in Tahrir Square."
The quotations are part of a piece aimed at explaining the president's thinking on the crisis in the Middle East. And his envy for the Chinese leader is meant to demonstrate the difficulty of balancing so-called "pragmatism" with "idealism."
The Times writes:
This emphasis on pragmatism over idealism has left Mr. Obama vulnerable to criticism that he is losing the battle for the hearts and minds of the Arab street protesters. Some say he is failing to bind the United States to the historic change under way in the Middle East the way thatRonald Reagan forever cemented himself in history books to the end of the cold war with his famous call to tear down the Berlin Wall.
“It’s tempting, and it would be easy, to go out day after day with cathartic statements that make us feel good,” said Benjamin J. Rhodes, the deputy national security adviser, who wrote Mr. Obama’s soaring speech in Cairo to the Islamic world in 2009. “But ultimately, what’s most important is achieving outcomes that are consistent with our values, because if we don’t, those statements will be long forgotten.”
But what the deputy national security advisor is displaying is cognitive dissonance. After all, the Obama administration has done nothing but issue statements about the Middle East. There has been no hurry to quell the violence tyrannical regimes are using on their own citizens. The administration has not aimed to institute a no-fly zone in Libya -- or anything of the sort -- where Libyan strongman Muammar Qaddafi is murdering his own people. The president offered no aid beyond several statements to the Egyptian people, who bravely overthrew their dictator, Hosni Mubarak.
On Libya's Qaddafi, the president "stated that when a leader's only means of staying in power is to use mass violence against his own people, he has lost the legitimacy to rule and needs to do what is right for his country by leaving now," according to the White House.
Never mind that Obama's statement was undermined directly by his director of national intelligence, who yesterday said that it is his belief that Qaddafi will remain in power. The president told Qaddafi to leave. And as President Lyndon Johnson reportedly said, "Don't tell a man to go to hell unless you intend to send him there."