During the 2012 presidential debates Gov. Mitt Romney labeled Russia the United States’ “number one geopolitical foe.” At the time President Obama mocked the comment relentlessly.
“The 1980s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back because the Cold War’s been over for 20 years,” Obama said.
Even after Russia invaded Crimea and threatened the sovereignty of Ukraine earlier this year the president was unapologetic.
“Russia is a regional power that is threatening some of its immediate neighbors, not out of strength, but out of weakness,” the president said at a summit in Brussels in March. “So my response then continues to be what I believe today, which is: Russia’s actions are a problem. They don’t pose the number one national security threat to the United States.”
But after Russian separatists shot down Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 this past week President Obama is being forced to rethink his assessment.
The president called the attack a “wake-up call” for the world that “there are consequences to an escalating conflict in eastern Ukraine; that is not going to be localized, it is not going to be contained.”
President Obama’s remarks on Friday followed a media cycle in which he was roundly criticized for his lackadaisical initial response to the attack. Instead of condemning the unprovoked violence or promising to get to the bottom of the crime, the President dedicated less than a minute to the escalating European crisis before launching into canned jokes and remarks on the need for infrastructure.
“It looks like it may be a terrible tragedy,” was all the president could muster before promising to “stay in close contact” with the Ukrainian government. He did offer up his “thoughts and prayers” to the families of the passengers before segueing to a joke about Vice President Joe Biden.
“It is great to be in the state that gave us Joe Biden,” the president said to laughter. “We’ve actually got some better-looking Bidens with us here today.”
Obviously, we cannot fault the president for not wanting to speak before he could gather the facts of the incident, but the utter display of tone-deafness only served to highlight the weak foreign policy chops of this supposed commander in chief.
If anything Obama should have followed the script Ronald Reagan laid out when a Korean airliner was shot down in eerily similar circumstances in 1983.
“Words can scarcely express our revulsion at this horrifying act of violence,” Reagan began. “The United States joins with other members of the international community in demanding a full explanation for this appalling and wanton misdeed,” he continued before ordering the flags of the United States flown at half-staff.
When Reagan promised to work together with the international community to figure out what happened, Americans believed him. But does anyone believe Obama? Sure, he promised to have a “credible international investigation into what happened,” but that is going to be tough to do considering the crash site (a.k.a. the crime scene) was never properly secured and Russia is already being accused of aiding rebels in destroying evidence. And sure, he demanded an “immediate cease-fire,” but only after Russian President Vladimir Putin called for the exact same thing.
But perhaps the most telling thing that the White House said in response to the crisis is that there would be “[n]o schedule changes. . . at this time,” meaning President Obama would continue on to his fundraisers in New York City. Commander in Chief? Not so much. Fundraiser in chief? You betcha.