To paraphrase Pete Townshend of The Who, "Meet the new year; same as the old year."
That was my reaction to Andy McCarthy's New Year's Eve article at National Review Online about President Obama recruiting Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi to mediate secret peace talks between the United States and the Taliban. As McCarthy notes Qaradawi issued a fatwa exhorting Muslims to kill U.S. troops in Iraq.
For President Obama to ask Qaradawi to act in America's interests in Afghanistan would be like asking Hell's Angels to provide security at a White House concert; asking Michael Vick to take Bo out for a walk or asking Jerry Sandusky to babysit your prepubescent children.
But even if Obama hadn't sought out Qaradawi that still leaves the secret negotiations with the Taliban. The idea that our armed forces spent more than ten years fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan only for President Obama to legitimize and leave with them in power in the vain hope that they, like the Muslim Brotherhood, will become a largely secular organization, is an insult to our troops' duty, heroism, and sacrifice. It would be like our forces leaving Japan with Tojo still in power after bombing Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Then again, it was President Obama who wanted to apologize to Japan for Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 2009. Fortunately, the Japanese government had the good sense to put the kibosh on such impropriety and imprudence.
Suffice it to say, I am not surprised that President Obama sees fit to negotiate with the Taliban or that he thought it a good idea to ask Sheikh Qaradawi to intercede. After all, this is the President who was prepared to engage Iran, North Korea, and Venezuela without precondition. This is the President whose administration saw fit to give guns to Mexican drug cartels. This is the President who thought it sensible to give in excess of half a billion dollars to the sinkhole known as Solyndra to manufacture overpriced solar panels no one wanted to buy. This is also the President who has accumulated more debt in less than three years in office than all his predecessors accumulated in 220 years.
And yet in ten months time, Americans might very well see fit to bestow Obama with another four years in office. Although Obama's Gallup numbers are lower than those of Jimmy Carter at this stage of his Presidency, the White House's current resident has some things going for him. As Charles Lane of the Washington Post notes:
On the plus side for Obama, majorities continue to like him personally and to describe him as honest and trustworthy. His foreign-policy ratings are strong, blunting the GOP's traditional edge in that department. The man who presided over the demise of Osama bin Laden scored a phenomenal 63 percent approval rating on fighting terrorism in an early November Gallup poll.
I would add to that a billion dollar war chest and a media that despite its disappointment with him is still largely sympathetic to his agenda. Put together these assets are considerable and may prove to be insurmountable for any Republican challenger to overcome. At this point, Mitt Romney is considered the odds on favorite to win the GOP nomination despite the fact a critical mass of the conservative movement is at odds with him both personally and substantively. Yet with one Republican challenger after the other rising and falling while Romney stays steady, GOP activists might very well settle for the former Massachusetts Governor. But even if Republicans settle for Romney that doesn't mean the rest of the country will be prepared to do the same.
Then again what if Ron Paul decides to run as a third party candidate should he fail to win the Republican nomination? Nothing would delight the Obama campaign more because not only would Paul's presence help Obama in November it would make Obama look like Abraham Lincoln.
Of course it was Lincoln who famously said, "You can fool some of the people all the time, and all of the people some of time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time." Yet President Obama doesn't need to fool all of the people to get re-elected. Whatever the sheer stupidity of negotiating with the Taliban, allowing Sheikh Qaradawi to mediate the negotiations, allowing weapons to get into the hands of Mexican drug cartels or accumulating record levels of debt, there will be a segment of the population that will not know or will not care about such details. They will only remember that Obama gave the order to kill Osama bin Laden even if Team Six did the heavy lifting. Even though bin Laden's killing doesn't end the threat of Islamic radical terrorism against the United States; for an American public weary of war, it might be just enough to get Obama over the finish line.
The big question facing America in 2012 is whether President Obama will be able to fool us again?