Cohen: Obama ‘did not want to make America great again. It was great enough for him already.’
Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen is no conservative, and certainly no fan of Donald Trump. The headline of a column he wrote during the campaign, after all, was “Trump’s Hitlerian disregard for the truth.”
Which makes his column of today, “Thanks to no-drama Obama, American leadership is gone,” which absolutely rips the bark off Barack Obama, all the more remarkable. Observing that Obama “has been all too happy to preside over the loss of American influence,” he describes the current president as having “waved a droopy flag. He did not want to make America great again. It was great enough for him already.” On Syria, Obama “threw in the towel. The banner he flew was one of American diminishment.”
Concluded Cohen grimly: “Whether we liked it or not, we were the world’s policeman. There was no other cop on the beat. Now that leadership is gone. So, increasingly, will be peace.”
Today’s Morning Joe panel discussed the Cohen column, with fellow WaPo columnist Eugene Robinson mounting a wan defense of Obama, arguing that the world is more complicated and “multi-layered” than it used to be. Whatever.
Robinson claimed that American leadership was “simple” and “easy” during the Cold War period. Baloney! Until Ronald Reagan’s “we win, they lose” came along, Jimmy Carter’s droopy flag made it seem that the Soviet Union could survive indefinitely.
One cavil with Cohen’s conclusion: Barack Obama will soon be gone, but the same is not necessarily true for American leadership. There’s a new guy coming to the White House. Let’s see what he can do to restore American leadership in the world. There have already been some promising signs.
WILLIE GEIST: Let’s turn now to the must-read op-eds. Richard Cohen writing in the Washington Post:
“Thanks to no-drama Obama, American leadership is gone.” Richard writes: “The Russians managed to do what they wanted to do in Syria. Why not the United States? The answer has always been clear to me. Obama did not care enough. Not from him ever came a thundering demand that Russia and Iran get out and stay out. Behind the arguably persuasive reasons to do little in Syria was an emotional coldness. This was not Obama’s fight. Kellyanne Conway keeps pointing out that Hillary Clinton had no message. True. Neither for that matter did Obama. He waved a droopy flag. He did not want to make America great again. It was great enough for him already. The banner he flew was one of American diminishment. One could agree, one could not be proud . . . Since the end of world War II, American leadership has been essential to maintain world peace. Whether we liked it or not, we were the world’s policeman. There was no other cop on the beat. Now that leadership is gone. So, increasingly, will be peace.”
Tough piece there from your colleague, Richard Cohen, Gene.
EUGENE ROBINSON: Yeah, I mean, I would, I would take a slightly different view. The world has changed substantially from, you know, the sort of post-war security architecture, which was clearly led by the United States, in the Cold War, against the Soviet bloc. That was simple and that was easy and that was a defined and necessary role for the United States to play. After the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Soviet bloc and the emergence of a multi-polar world, it became not so simple, in the age of terrorism, of Islamic fundamentalism, and, you know, a complicated, multi-layered situation like Syria, it is not entirely clear that that old-style of American leadership, where we just kind of, you know, come in and say, everybody out of the way and you do this and you do that, you know, be nice to try that, but, in fact, it wouldn’t work. There’s no — this is not the world that we lived in in the 50s and the 60s and the 70s. It’s just not.
WILLIE: Except, Chris [Jansing], that he did try with rhetoric some of that swagger. He said, Assad must go. He said we’re going to draw a line in the sand if you cross it, X will happen.
CHRIS JANSING: And it didn’t.
WILLE: Well, they crossed the line and it didn’t happen. So the argument is there was there was no follow-up on the rhetoric.
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