No columnist rivals Matthew Continetti's ability to contrast so starkly the president's exalted self-image with his actual smallness on the world stage. This morning's installment of his weekly Free Beacon column is perhaps the best example yet. While President Obama announces his arrival at coffee shops and diners by declaring "the bear is loose!" the Russian bear is marking its territory much more aggressively:
One can trace a line from any global hotspot to Russia and its authoritarian ruler. Iran? Russia has assisted its nuclear program for decades. Syria? Russia is Bashar Assad’s arms dealer. Iraq? Russia is sending men and materiel to the central government. Afghanistan? Putin muscled nearby Kyrgyzstan into closing our air base there, crucial for transport, resupply, and reconnaissance in the war against the Taliban. The contretemps between the United States and Germany is the result of Edward Snowden’s breach of national security. Where is Snowden? In Russia, where he has just asked to have his visa renewed. I wonder if Vladimir Putin will say yes.
Then there is Ukraine ...
"Obama is not the bear," Continetti notes. "He is the cub: aimless, naïve, self-interested, self-indulgent, irresponsible, irresolute. The bear is in Moscow."
Continetti's analysis is correct, but it also reminds us how history repeats. Thirty years ago, President Reagan campaigned for re-election on precisely the same theme: "There is a bear in the woods."
There is a bear in the woods.
For some people, the bear is easy to see. Others don't see it at all.
Some people say the bear is tame. Others say it's vicious and dangerous.
Since no one can really be sure who's right, isn't it smart to be as strong as the bear?
If there is a bear?
As Fred Barnes recalled years later, this ad was "the most devastating of President Reagan's TV ads in the 1984 presidential race." Reagan's "Bear in the Woods" made it impossible for Walter Mondale and the Democratic party to disabuse the public that America could afford to approach the Soviet Union with anything other than strength.
The bear seems to be back. So let's bring back the "Bear in the Woods" ad, too. Because America still needs to be as strong as the bear.