Media Matters

Mideast in Flames — And Obama Still Can Do No Wrong

In the eyes of a worshipful press, of course.

By 9.18.12

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The Middle East is in flames, our embassies are under attack, and four American diplomats have come home in coffins. So who is to blame?

It's time for the MSM to round up all the usual suspects -- and to exonerate a president who cavorts with Hollywood celebrities and goes on the David Letterman show to demonstrate his famous cool under fire. Perhaps he will do a Top Ten list on why the U.S. should stand by and do nothing while Iran gets ready to launch a nuclear attack that will achieve its oft stated goal of destroying Israel.

In her own inimitable (and nonsensical) prose, Maureen Dowd began her column this weekend saying that Paul Ryan has not "sautéed" in foreign policy. Nor -- I will add for her -- has Paul Ryan drizzled, dredged, or deep-fried in foreign policy. She wrote:

Paul Ryan has not sautéed in foreign policy in his years on Capitol Hill. The 42-year-old congressman is no Middle East savant; till now, his idea of a border dispute has more likely involved Wisconsin and Illinois.

Perhaps a copy-editor (if the Times still has such people) could take Ms. Dowd aside and explain to her that sauté is a transitive verb: It is an action word that requires an object (you sauté onions, garlic, or other things, and you do it quickly; you don't self-reflexively place what the reader must assume to be your own bottom in cooking oil or foreign policy over a great length of time). I would guess that she meant to say that Paul Ryan has not been steeped in foreign policy, but then she rejected that as insufficiently high-brow for her audience.

Undaunted by her own illiteracy, Dowd pressed deeper into the culinary arts in her next paragraph:

Yet Ryan got up at the Values Voter Summit here [in Washington] on Friday and skewered the Obama administration as it struggled to manage the Middle Eastern mess left by clumsily mixed American signals toward Arab Spring and the disastrous legacy of war-obsessed Republicans.

On the same page of the Sunday Times, Nicholas D. Kristof attempted to make fun of Mitt Romney under the headline "The Foreign Relations Fumbler." He opted for explosive devices over gastronomy in his opening paragraph:

Diplomacy is a minefield, and Mitt Romney spent the last week blowing up his foreign policy credentials to be president. He raised doubts about his capacity to deal with global crisis, and we were left hoping that if (a) 3 a.m. call ever went to him, he'd have set up call forwarding.

It was of course Hillary Clinton -- back when she was running against Barack Obama in the 2008 Democratic primaries -- who ran the famous ad questioning whether the American people could trust Obama to take a 3 a.m. call on the presidential hotline. Kristof ignored that nice little irony in rehashing Romney's alleged gaffs in his recent trip to three of our nation's staunchest allies (Britain, Poland, and Israel).

To borrow one of Maureen Dowd's phrases, Kristof considers himself to be very much of "Middle East savant." But he did rather "blow up" his own "foreign policy credentials" with his absurdly optimistic coverage of the heady early days of Arab Spring.

In a column written shortly after the resignation of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in February 2011, Kristof posed the question: "Is the Arab world unready for freedom? A crude stereotype lingers that some people -- Arabs, Chinese and Africans -- are incompatible with democracy. Many around the world fret that 'people power' will likely result in Somalia-style chaos, Iraq-style civil war or Iran-style oppression." He went on to answer his own question by saying it was "insulting to the unfree world" to suggest that Arab countries might fail the test of peaceful, democratic self-rule.

Needless to say, the jut-jawed pundit set up an Obama-style straw man in framing the question in the way that he did. Any culture or national grouping -- be it white, black, brown, or yellow -- that celebrates violence against outsiders… and violence against its own people (through such practices as stoning women to death accused of adultery)… is far removed from any possibility of genuine democracy.

In his column this weekend, Kristof went on to repeat the outrageous falsehood that Obama administration officials have been peddling over the past week. He wrote: "Yet with the Middle East exploding in recent days because of (emphasis added) a video insulting to the Prophet Muhammad, Romney dived in, etc., etc." Surely, no one who is halfway serious believes that the storming of the U.S. embassy in Cairo and the consulate in Benghazi on September 11 -- of all dates! -- was anything other than a well-planned and orchestrated event designed to humiliate the United States and to accelerate the nation's decline as a world power and a force for world peace and freedom.

Nevertheless, the administration continues to hew shamelessly to the we-did-to-ourselves line in at least partially excusing the murder of American citizens on supposedly protected American soil… and in continuing to promote the myth that the so-called Arab Spring portends a dazzling Arab summer of new-found freedom and democracy. All will be for the best in this best of all possible worlds. Hillary said so herself in her best imitation of Voltaire's Dr. Pangloss: "The people of Egypt, Libya, Yemen, and Tunisia did not trade the tyranny of a dictator for the tyranny of a mob."

Tonight Obama goes on the David Letterman's show. Expect the two of them to pull long faces for 15 seconds or so over the murder of the U.S. ambassador to Libya and his three colleagues. Then each of them will settle down to his own brand of idle banter and cool aloofness. There's not much to care or worry about, if you are as disengaged and self-centered as the gap-toothed comic or the president who seems to have learned nothing at all from nearly four years of on-the-job training in his first real job (i.e. one with real responsibility -- if he cared to acknowledge it).

The mainstream media can congratulate themselves for helping to make this grotesquely conceited and troubling show possible.

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About the Author
Andrew B. Wilson, a frequent contributor to The American Spectator and a former foreign correspondent, is a resident fellow and senior writer at the Show-Me Institute in St. Louis.