Gone are his airy assurances that the rough places of the planet can be sanded smooth with a soaring speech, that an enemy's guns are no match for warm and fuzzy language. Maybe mere eloquence can't shame the troublemakers to silence after all. Neither will several verses of "Kumbaya." Maybe the world wants more than a Coke.
His briskly executed executive order to close the American prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, demonstrated that he's absolutely, positively, unequivocally serious about keeping his endlessly repeated vow to shut down the prison. Some day, but not today. Within a year, unless it takes longer than that. Or possibly never. He, along with a growing number of his enablers, has discovered evil in the world.
The New York Times, his chief enabler in the press, is sadder, if not wiser: "The emergence of a former Guantanamo Bay detainee as the deputy leader of al Qaeda's Yemeni branch has underscored the potential complications in carrying out the executive order President Obama signed Thursday that the detention center be shut down within a year. The new administration wants to move cautiously, taking time to work out a plan to cope with the complications." Ah, yes. The "complications." Life would be a bowl of cherries, or at least a bowl of peaches with half-and-half, but for complications.
All presidents - indeed, all politicians - say things they don't necessarily mean, and in the heat of a campaign they rarely say things they actually do mean. So it's only fair to cut the new president a little slack. But we're entitled to take a little harmless fun in watching pols, even a president, eat their words, to back, fill, scoot sideways, correct the record, "extend remarks," and otherwise run away from themselves.
It's even more fun to watch pomposities of the press make a U-turn while insisting they aren't detouring from a straight line. The late American success in Iraq was deeply galling to the Democrats, who squirmed and wriggled uncomfortably throughout September and October like a man sitting with an itch in damp underwear. They couldn't deny the blossoming success of the surge, but to admit it would undercut the argument that George W. Bush had so screwed up things that the war was unwinnable.
The new president is fond of comparisons to Franklin D. Roosevelt, and here's one he might not have thought of: FDR's assurance that "I hate war, Eleanor hates war, even little Fala hates war." Four years of world war followed. President Obama no doubt hates war; so do we all. But now the war in Afghanistan is to get bigger, and whose war will that become?
Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. blames the melancholy future on a familiar villain. The situation in Afghanistan has deteriorated, he told CBS News on Sunday, caused by a "failure to provide sufficient resources, economic, political and military, as well as failure to get a coherent policy among our allies. The bottom line here is, we've inherited a real mess. We're about to go in and try to essentially reclaim territory that's been effectively lost. There are going to be some additional military forces." With more casualties? "I hate to say it, but yes, I think there will be. There will be an uptick."
This is upticking that infuriates the blind George Soros left in the new president's party, which is determined to believe, against all evidence, that the threat from radical Islam is a figment of the wicked American imagination, that all differences with the radical Muslims can be resolved by being nicer to terrorists, assuring them better jobs, better schools, social justice, comprehensive health insurance and affordable day care for suicide bombers.
But it's not just one or two men released from Guantanamo keeping the president awake through the night. The Pentagon has identified 61 one-time "detainees" at Guantanamo who were released and have returned to the fight in Iraq and Afghanistan, well-fed and healthier from an American mess hall and more determined than ever to plot mayhem on Americans.
The Pentagon says it will continue to work with foreign governments "to mitigate the threat they pose." Barack Obama is learning the hard way that the mitigator in chief's lot is not a happy one.