Jewish World Review Sept. 13, 2013/ 9 Tishrei, 5774
A president adrift
By Paul Greenberg
http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | The Sea of Faith
Was once, too, at the full ...
But now I only hear
Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar ...
It would be wrong to say that our president's policy toward the continuing crisis, calamity and crack-up in
But by this time in
Soon the curtain rises for the next inconclusive act and bloody scene. And the bodies are piled higher. There may be exceptions in this administration's record -- occasional success stories when and if those responsible for protecting the country are allowed to do their job -- but those remain the exceptions. In
Does anyone believe in this president any more when it comes to issues of life and death, war and peace? If so, their faith, which may not be easy to differentiate from naivete, is more impressive than convincing.
Just where we are now in this tragic history is hard to tell. Are we entering a war but not a real one, or pausing to give peace a chance but not much of one?
To know where we are headed would mean knowing where we are, and that much nobody seems to know. Certainly not this president, who says he's waiting for the Russian president, or
Are we headed for war or peace or neither? Your guess is as good as mine, maybe better, for it may be unclouded by long attention to this president's record or lack of one. What moves him besides the devout wish to put off any and all decisions? For now all is in abeyance, and may always be.
As a back-bencher named
Change the year from 1936 to 2013. Specifically, to this week. It began with the president and commander-in-chief proposing to strike against
As all surely recognize, this president has a reluctant country to win over to his policy, if he has one. He wouldn't be the first president that Americans had to be persuaded to follow. Knowing that he needed to prepare the country for the coming war,
He was determined to keep America out of war, said FDR, even as he was waging an undeclared naval war against Nazi
But always he spoke of his devotion to peace, publicly praising the Neutrality Act of 1935 as an "expression of the desire ... to avoid any action which might involve (America) in war." Even as he laid plans to repeal it. And prepare for a war that he, and anyone else who could follow the meaning of the news, had to know was coming.
This president does the opposite. He speaks of war while backing away from it. Call him a Reverse Roosevelt. Until this week, he spoke of waging only limited war but now has limited even that request, asking
Tuesday night, the president voiced his resentment at those who'd dismissed his military strategy as just a few "pinpricks" that would scarcely discourage a ruthless killer like
If the president's much awaited address to the country this week left any impression at all, it was that of a deeply conflicted leader -- conflicted to the point of paralysis. No wonder the country hesitates to follow him. Whether he is advocating war or peace or some indeterminate state between them.
Other presidents have been forced to limit their aims by the merciless fortunes of war; this president limits his own. He cannot accuse the opposition of pulling the rug out from under him, not with any justice, for he does it to himself. For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?
What is his policy now? The short answer is that there is no telling. It might be summed up as Drift -- in no clear direction. The only fair summation of his message to the country Tuesday night would be: To Be Continued.
Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in the media and Washington consider "must-reading". Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.
JWR contributor Paul Greenberg, editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, has won the Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing. Send your comments by clicking here.
© 2010 Tribune Media Services, Inc.