Rand Paul, who will likely run for president as a stay-at-home Republican, went to Guatemala recently and performed eye surgeries as a means of displaying his foreign-policy bona fides,” wrote New Yorker editor and Barack Obama hagiographer David Remnick. “Was Bashar al-Assad, Syria’s ophthalmologist-in-chief, impressed?”
Since the mid 1990s — long before his election to the Senate in 2010 — Sen. Paul has been going to Guatemala to provide free surgical care to poor people in desperate need of it. He’s never claimed his charitable work is a foreign-policy credential.
It’s kosher to criticize Sen. Paul’s foreign policy views, to suspect expediency motivated the recent shift in them and to consider his inexperience in foreign affairs a handicap. (I have, I do and I do.) But to attack him for his charitable work is vile.
Mr. Remnick also mocked New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie for saying Russian President Vladimir Putin wouldn’t push him around the way he has President Obama and snarked at former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s prediction that the invasion of Iraq would be a “cakewalk.”
Mr. Remnick’s snark is sustained only by his ignorance of or disregard for facts.
Teacher unions found it hard to bully Gov. Christie. So might the Russians.
The invasion of Iraq was a cakewalk. Saddam Hussein’s regime was ousted 21 days after the U.S. coalition attacked. Just 172 coalition soldiers were killed. The Six Day War between Israel and Arab states in 1967 probably was the only victory in the history of warfare won more swiftly or easily.
The troubles came during the occupation afterward, which Mr. Rumsfeld — who wanted the United States to set up a coalition government and then leave — had opposed.
The Islamic State “does not present an imminent threat to this nation,” Sen. Mark Udall, D.-Colo, said in a debate Monday with his GOP opponent.
That isn’t the opinion of Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, who said the Islamic State is an “imminent threat to every interest we have,” or of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the commander of SOUTHCOM or former Deputy CIA Director Michael Morell. But Sen. Udall’s assertion is defensible. This wasn’t:
“Steve Sotloff and James Foley would tell us, don’t be impulsive,” he said. “Horrible and barbarous as those executions were, don’t be impulsive, come up with a plan to knock [the Islamic State] back.”
No one knows what was in their heads in the moments before they were severed, but if the journalists knew the mission to rescue them failed because the president dithered too long before authorizing it, I doubt they’d applaud his “caution.”
Mr. Sotloff’s parents blame Obama administration policy for the capture of their son and think the White House didn’t do enough to help him, said a spokesman for the family.
“We know that the intelligence community and the White House are enmeshed in a larger game of bureaucratic infighting and Jim and Steve [were] pawns in that game and that’s not fair,” Barak Barfi told CNN. “… The relationship between the administration and the Sotloff family was very strained.”
It wasn’t just “unfair” for Mr. Udall to claim the right to speak for the murdered journalists; it was vile.
Perhaps Mr. Remnick and Mr. Udall said what they said because they can’t defend the indefensible. With so little to praise in the president’s conduct of foreign affairs, they assert the pot is as black as the kettle.
It isn’t. Mr. Obama’s predecessors made plenty of mistakes. But the foreign policy of no other president has failed so completely, so spectacularly, with such potentially catastrophic consequences. No president before him has been so disrespected by so many foreign leaders or behaved so bizarrely during crises.
Barack Obama’s performance in office devastates smug liberal pretensions of intellectual and moral superiority. Those who said he was a great leader —the smartest president ever — look pretty stupid now. Those who say what Mr. Remnick and Mr. Udall said forfeit any claim to moral authority.
Jack Kelly is a columnist for the Post-Gazette (firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1476).