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July 27, 2011
The Danger of a Weak American President
By James G. Wiles
It's now clear that the emperor has no clothes. By August 2, President Barack Obama could become largely irrelevant in our domestic politics.
Unless Monday night's presidential address turns things around, Mr. Obama is about to be a lame duck before his time. If so, the American people can breathe easier. To borrow a slogan from the 2004 John Kerry-John Edwards campaign: "Help Is on the Way."
But conservatives should not necessarily offer three cheers for this outcome -- which is, let me hasten to add, entirely of the president's own making.
As I catalogued here last week, the United States is currently passing through a moment of danger -- both domestically and abroad. The U.S. economy has now stalled, with the highest level of unemployment since before the Second World War. Indeed, we haven't had a moment like this since Jimmy Carter became president in the wake of Watergate, the First Oil Shock, stagflation, and the fall of Southeast Asia to the Communists.
Now that it's clear that something like Speaker John Boehner's package will be passed to resolve the debt ceiling crisis and whittle away a bit more at the deficit, it's doubly clear that President Barack Obama has shot his wad. Unless Mr. Obama is reelected in 2012, this president is now largely unable to do further damage domestically. Only his veto pen retains its potency.
It's a different matter abroad. There, Mr. Obama remains in charge of America's position in world affairs. As president, he is commander-in-chief of the American military, America's head of state and the Leader of the Free World.
The world, however, now sees that America's president is weak. He does not command the Congress or the confidence of the American people. He refused to pull the trigger on Moammar Gaddafi, matching his actions to his words. With seventeen months to go in his term, the president presently appears unlikely to win reelection -- or his party to retain control of one House of Congress.
This is dangerous. In this wicked world, it is important that the American president be feared. This one is not.
The last time this happened, the year was 1979. And America's enemies moved very aggressively to take advantage of the failure of the Carter presidency.
The Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. It air-lifted Cuban troops into Angola, Mozambique, and the Horn of Africa, while simultaneously funding a Communist takeover in Nicaragua and a Communist insurgency in El Salvador. The USSR also began building a blue-water navy. A Soviet brigade was planted in Cuba, and Russian bombers began flying long-range patrols along the American coast.
In the Middle East, the Iranian Revolution occurred. Soon the entire U.S. Embassy staff had been taken hostage.
It is a different world today. But the issue remains the same. In the wake of the failure of Obama's presidency, will America's enemies move? Our moment of maximum weakness -- and the moment of maximum danger for American allies like Taiwan, South Korea, Israel, the Philippines, and Georgia -- begins now.
Will they move? Where will they move?
Those now become the questions.