The Empty Suit
August 13, 2007
In recent years, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan, and Jimmy Carter have been elected to the White House with no national legislative or foreign policy experience. Results have been mixed at best, with the handicapping of their results more a product of one's political and ideological affiliations.
The current President Bush went to Washington with an idealistic view of how he would handle other nations and their leaders; Clinton practiced a policy of rocking the international boat as little as possible; Reagan inherited the Cold War, but he entered office with firm beliefs on Soviet relations; and Carter had one success: getting Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat to speak face-to-face and sign an historic peace treaty.
The current crop of political candidates- the serious candidates who have a chance to win- are not exceptionally impressive in the area of foreign policy. But nearly all seem at the least qualified when compared to the obvious empty suit in the race: Sen. Barack Obama.
Since his entry into the race, Obama's inexperience and too-sunny idealism have hinted at ineptitude just below the surface. Many political observers have been troubled at his few comments about fighting Arabic Islam terrorists. After having been forced by the political debate, perhaps the senator from Illinois wishes he had continued his relative silence on the subject.
When a presidential candidate can make a Clinton look strong on foreign policy, that candidate is in no political condition to inhabit 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
Sen. Obama has spoken about our war against Islamic terrorists a few times in the past, and his deeply rooted liberal ideology has been apparent each time. Predictably, he believes that spending money to help Arabs to get out of poverty (i.e., Arabs in the West Bank and Gaza) will prevent their conversions into terrorists later. Never mind that some of the September 11 terrorists- not to mention Osama bin Laden and his number two man Ayman al-Zawahiri- come from affluent backgrounds.
But to a liberal, spending money can cure all that ails.
Now comes Obama's embarrassing remarks about tyrants, the war, Pakistan, and nuclear weapons. Two of the remarks were comments that a president, and thus by extension a presidential candidate, should not utter.
In chronological order:
Obama has said that a President Obama would meet, without conditions, the leaders of Iran, North Korea, and Cuba. Obviously he does not understand the dynamics of world politics, American leadership, and the prestige attached to the presidency.
Obama later expressed his ignorance by declaring that he would attack terrorists in Pakistan if President Musharraf did not. While that is a view shared by many Americans, and possibly a necessary course of action some day, to declare that the United States would ignore the sovereignty of another nation- a nation that is on the cusp of being overthrown by our enemies- is worse than ignorance. Obama expressed sheer foolishness and potentially harmed Musharraf's tenuous rule.
Next came a President Obama taking away the one option that the world dreads, but an option that could have to be used again some day: the nuclear option. Within a matter of seconds during the statement, Obama went from sounding bold to hesitant to completely lost.
His speeches may be inspirational to his friends and supporters on the left, but the prospect of Obama in charge of foreign policy is unsettling at best.
Over-simplification can be excused on some political issues, but not the potentially dangerous world of foreign policy. Obama's failing is not his liberalism, but that he's an empty suit- a U.S. Senator for less than three years, perhaps well-intentioned, feeling his way around on the national stage.
If this were baseball, he would be sent back down to the minor leagues for additional work. But this is politics- real life. An empty suit in the White House can have unimaginable consequences.
The best we can hope for is that, before the next time he runs again, Barack Obama will take the time to educate himself- particularly given that we are at war- about such important matters which make up a nation's foreign policy. The empty suit has time to have a qualified candidate fill it out, but certainly not in time for the 2008 election.
Brian W. Peterson has been a columnist for a mid-size California newspaper, is a veteran of political campaigns, and was a member of the publicly elected Republican Central Committee of Los Angeles County. His psychological thriller Dead Dreams and sci-fi adventure Children of the Sun are currently available through Amazon.com. You can follow Brian on Twitter @cybrpete.