Robert Stein 1924-2014

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Saturday, September 07, 2013

Pissing Contests with Skunks

Embattled as he is in Washington and around the world, Barack Obama may find himself pondering the earthy wisdom of a favorite predecessor, Dwight Eisenhower.

“I don’t want to get into a pissing contest with that skunk,” Ike told his Secretary of State about Sen. Joe McCarthy’s putrid emanations on American foreign policy. Years later, on his dark porch overlooking blood-soaked Gettysburg, the former President was still nursing the pain of that conflict, muttering “I didn’t want to get into the gutter with that guy.”

Now, Obama finds himself in multiple urinating matches with Assad, Putin, even his own allies in Congress over the prospect of lethal conflict with Syria. Sadly, he won’t find answers in Eisenhower’s experience, but it may suggest other choices.

Back then, in the absence of presidential leadership, it took TV icon Edward R. Murrow and aging Boston lawyer Joseph Welch (“Have you, sir, no sense of decency at long last?”) to start turning Americans away from McCarthyism toward sanity.

Ike’s hunkering down didn’t work. What, in the light of Obama’s choice to put himself into such contests, can he do now?

Even as he asks for support in his Weekly Address, the President sounds defensive: “I know that the American people are weary after a decade of war, even as the war in Iraq has ended, and the war in Afghanistan is winding down. That’s why we’re not putting our troops in the middle of somebody else’s war.

“We can’t ignore chemical weapons attacks like this one--even if they happen halfway around the world.”

Next week, as he tries to rally the nation behind that belief, Barack Obama should agree to delay any strike against Syria if Congress does not sanction it and use every possible diplomatic pressure against Assad in the meantime.

That would be a stance more befitting a Nobel Peace Prize winner than a pissant politician worrying about his own reputation and credibility.

1 comment:

(O)CT(O)PUS said...

For better or worse, we are all sailing to Byzantium. Shall we speak of what is past, or passing, or to come?