Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Obama: The Picture Of Clarity

What a refreshing surprise!  This gem of an article was found in the Chicago Tribune, President Obama's state.  It is a beautifully written account of a very serious matter, with just a hint of dry wit.  Not surprisingly the comments to Mr. Kass' article are not too favorable by the Chicago crowds.   Mr. Kass captured our attention with the title and we decided to share the find with our readers whom we're sure will be more understanding of his opinion.
Two Sisters





March 23, 2011


He was in El Salvador, standing with Salvadoran President Mauricio Funes, when reporters asked him about his war in Libya.

It is indeed his war. He started it. He gave the order to launch the missiles over the weekend. And now the man who ran for president as an anti-war candidate owns his very own war.

But there has been confusion over which member of his coalition will command the war. Will Obama ask a foreign general to direct American troops? Will President Nicolas Sarkozy of France take the coalition lead?

On Tuesday, Obama was asked about these command issues. It wasn't a trick. It should have been expected. He stood there, and he opened his mouth.

"I would expect that over the next several days you will have clarity and a meeting of the minds of all those who are participating in the process," Obama said.

We'll have clarity in a few days?

Clarity in a few days, Mr. President?

You don't wait to find clarity a few days after you begin a war. You'd better have complete clarity before you ever give the order to fire in the first place.

Days after ordering the launch of cruise missiles at around $1 million a pop isn't the time to find clarity, Mr. President.

Days after you bomb a country — even one run by a murderous psychopath like Moammar Gadhafi — isn't the time to begin searching for clarity.

The president must find clarity before beginning such an enterprise. To do otherwise is to risk not only American lives and his own presidency and political fortunes, but to risk America's future security and its place among nations.

There wasn't much drama in that quote in El Salvador, so I wonder whether Mr. Obama's Search for Clarity will remain in the news cycle or will drop mercifully from public notice.

Given the free pass he's had on this Libya business, I doubt whether it will become a slogan.

But he did say it — in front of TV cameras. And it would be laughably ridiculous, except that lives are at stake.

I suspect that every world leader saw it, and their generals saw it, from China to Russia and beyond, and they all took his measure and saw what was in him.

His enemies, the Republicans, say that if you take away his teleprompter, he's quite vulnerable. He's misspoken many times, but so has every president.

If this were merely a matter of rhetoric or misspeaking, I wouldn't mention it.

But that passive discussion about clarity, coming from the mouth of the president, underscores another problem that's been noticed by Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate.

He hasn't been clear on the war at all.

Before he ordered the strikes against Gadhafi, he'd argued that the Libyan dictator had to go, that driving him from power was the important thing.

Then that argument changed, and Obama and his advisers said we had to save the people of Libya from a bloody civil war. So it became a humanitarian mission.   Sort of.

Naturally, members of Congress are shrieking, since he attacked without asking their permission. Liberal U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich, the Ohio Democrat, brought up a quote from the past:  "The president does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation."

And who said it? Barack Obama, to The Boston Globe in 2007.

Early polls show that only 50 percent of the American people are in support of Obama's attack on Libya. Historically, such numbers are much higher at the outset of a war. So expect the numbers to get worse.

Sen. Mark Kirk, the Illinois Republican and U.S. naval intelligence officer, was speaking at the City Club of Chicago the other day, and I caught up to him there.

"The president needs to clearly define the war aims and who is in command," said Kirk, who supports the war in Libya.

"My hope is that when he returns to the United States, he needs to speak to the nation because he's just taken the country to war," Kirk said. "And a presidential address from the Oval Office is necessary to outline the mission, how he expects to achieve it and who is in charge."

When the president returns to the U.S. on Wednesday, and if his teleprompter is working, he'll put on a blue suit and a red tie and a white shirt and look quite presidential.

He'll speak forcefully. He'll speak reasonably. He will appear to the world like a leader.

And he won't look anything like the back bencher in the Illinois Legislature who never confronted power and spent his entire career accommodating the bosses so he could climb the political ladder. He won't look anything like that fellow who voted "present" time after time after time.


Instead, he'll look the picture of clarity.


jskass@tribune.com  


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