Indefensible: Obama Fails His First Big Test
by RICK MORAN
April 21, 2009
Our founders were very suspicious of the presidency. There were many who believed – Thomas Jefferson among them – that all that was needed to govern a free country was a Congress elected by the people at suitably short intervals so that if a representative proved untrustworthy or unresponsive, the people could put someone else in his stead. Many of Jefferson’s ilk saw the presidency as an invitation to monarchy. And the very idea of a Supreme Court who might be able to overturn laws passed by Congress gave the Jeffersonians the vapors.
Thankfully for history’s sake, a more realistic and hard-headed approach to designing a system of government for the United States prevailed in Philadelphia during that God-awful hot summer of 1787. As the delegates sweated through the debates over big state-small state issues, it became clear that there should be some kind of federal office charged with making sure the laws were “faithfully executed.” Not a king or emperor supreme to Congress, but an executive who would enforce the laws passed by the legislature as well as act as a representative of American sovereignty as Head of State and Commander in Chief of the military.
Several plans regarding the executive were presented and tossed aside, including an idea to make the president little more than errand boy for Congress. Clearly, there were grave misgivings about granting a single individual so much power in a republic.
What turned the tide toward a strong executive branch was the certainty that George Washington would be our first president. While debating the limits and scope of the presidency, delegates would glance at Washington and be reassured that the office would at least start out in good hands. They knew that Washington would defend the United States with honor – something he did several times during his two terms when he responded to various calumnies advanced by the French who accused the U.S. of favoring Great Britain in their war against Napoleon.
The Founders imbued the office of President with a dignity that few presidents have besmirched in our history. We have endured fools, knaves, stumblebums, party hacks, and political generals. But each of them tried honestly to defend the United States when she was attacked.
The president is ultimately responsible for the maintenance of American honor. And defending that honor is perhaps the greatest privilege – and challenge – of the office.
President Barack Obama either doesn’t understand this aspect of the presidency or, just as likely, doesn’t believe that safeguarding American honor is his job. Or even that it is worth his time. This became apparent as a result of what happened at the Summit of the Americas that the president is attending along with the heads of state from most of Latin America.
Daniel Ortega, the Sandinista Marxist thug who is currently President of Nicaragua, used his opening remarks at the summit to skewer the United States in a rant that lasted more than 50 minutes. The dripping irony of this communist lout decrying the actions of America over the last century (and longer) is a titanic joke. Ortega’s actions in support of the Communist guerrillas in El Salvador as well as his attempts to undermine governments elsewhere in Latin America during his first term as “president” back in the 1980s makes anything he says regarding American interference ring hollow.
Ortega and the Sandinistas, along with a coalition of middle class and small businessmen deposed Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio Somoza in 1979. The first thing the Sandinistas did – as any good little Communist would do – was to kick out the more moderate political partners who played a big role in the largely bloodless revolution, jailing some, and establishing a Marxist dictatorship. No other political parties were allowed to operate freely. Their rallies were broken up by black shirted thugs. They were denied air time on government controlled TV. Opposition leaders were routinely arrested, harassed, and beaten.
Almost immediately, he was opposed by former National Guard members who began an armed revolution that eventually - with the help of the U.S. – forced Ortega to hold elections in 1990. Every lefty in America worth their salt traveled to Nicaragua to help Danny Ortega defeat the evil designs of the Americans. Ortega did his part by trying even harder to suppress the opposition, using his bully boys to intimidate and beat down – literally and figuratively – his opponents, led by Violetta Chamorro, publisher of La Prensa and leader of the National Opposition Union.
In the end, when given the choice between freedom and Communist tyranny, the people chose Chamorro. But before Ortega left office, he had his Sandanista legislature pass a law granting him, along with several of his cronies, deeds to vast estates that were confiscated during his presidency. The theft made him fabulously wealthy.
In the intervening years he ran for the presidency twice and lost badly. Then, in 1998, his daughter shocked the world when she accused her father of sexually abusing her from the time she was 11 until 1990. Denied the opportunity to prove her case in Nicaragua, she took it to the Inter American Human Rights Commission which ruled the charges admissible. A settlement was reached with the government but Ortega’s daughter has never recanted the charges.
This is the man who stood in front of our president and railed against American interference in Latin America. Fond of pointing out American hypocrisy, our friends on the left are silent about both the Ortega diatribe and Obama’s “Grip and Grin” with that other paragon of democratic virtue and non-interference, Hugo Chávez. Instead, they have chosen to attack conservatives who are criticizing Obama for his being a bump on a log while Ortega skewers the country he supposedly leads and Chávez presents him with a book that is such a laughably, over the top, exaggerated, Marxist critique of American policy in the region that one wonders what planet it fell from. The author himself, Eduardo Galeano, admits he is not an historian – nor does he write history but rather a combination of “fiction, journalism, political analysis, and history.”
I will be the first to admit that the United States has behaved very badly in Latin America over the years; there has been resource grabbing, commercial exploitation, support for thugs like Somoza, and CIA shenanigans in countries too numerous to count. Most of our military interventions were to keep pro-American governments in power or help stamp out leftist guerrillas. Some of our interventions were to prevent the expropriation of American companies so that commercial monopolies could be maintained. There’s worse and it’s all true.
What is also true is that for the last few decades, no nation has done more for Latin American democracy than the United States – and that includes leftists in Latin America who prove that when they get a chance to lead are as brutal and thuggish as any right wing dictator who ever ruled in the region. Galeano apparently has the honesty at least to point out that Latin America’s problems are largely the result of their own making – their own view of themselves.
Of course, he also makes it clear that Euro-American “colonialism” is the major cause of this but there is something more fundamental at work. Very few Latin American countries have established the rule of law as a basis for governance. This is not the fault of colonialism, or America, or the CIA but rather the fault of the people themselves. It is not blaming the victim to point out the numerous opportunities that Latin American nations have had to rectify this situation and have chosen instead the path of corruption, oppression, and tyranny. The ruling class in most Latin American countries is besotted with crony capitalists, confiscatory leftists, and ambitious generals. And it’s time to stop blaming America, colonialism, the CIA, United Fruit, and all the other scapegoats presented to their long suffering citizens as excuses for their poverty and hopelessness and place the blame where it belongs; in the face looking back at them in the mirror.
Ortega presented the classic Latin American leftist case for why when they get in power, they muck things up so badly and continue the cycle of extreme poverty; it’s America’s fault:
Ortega, meanwhile, droned on about the offenses of the past, dredging up U.S. support of the Somoza regime and the “illegal” war against the Sandinista regime he once led by U.S.-backed Contra rebels in the 1980s. Ortega was a member of the revolutionary junta that drove Anastasio Somoza from power in 1979 and was elected president in 1985. He was defeated in 1990 by Violeta Chamorro and ran unsuccessfully twice for the presidency before winning in 2006.
Of the 19th and 20th centuries, Ortega said: “Nicaragua central America, we haven’t been shaken since the past century by what have been the expansionist policies, war policies, that even led us in the 1850s, 1855, 1856 to bring Central American people together. We united, with Costa Ricans, with people from Honduras, the people from Guatemala, El Salvador. We all got together, united so we could defeat the expansionist policy of the United States. And after that, after interventions that extended since 1912, all the way up to 1932 and that left, as a result the imposition of that tyranny of the Samoas. Armed, funded, defended by the American leaders.”
Ortega denounced the U.S.-backed attempt to overthrow Fidel Castro’s new Communist government in Cuba in 1961, a history of US racism and what he called suffocating U.S. economic policies in the region.
Ortega droned on for the better part of an hour and what was our president doing while a tin pot thug was running down his country, spreading exaggerated claims and outright lies?
Obama sat mostly unmoved during the speech but at times jotted notes.
He could have gotten up and walked out. That would have been the headline for the day as well as being the right thing to do. There should be a limit in the international arena of how much calumny can be heaped upon your country before honor requires a president to remove himself in protest. We can take a little intelligent criticism. But when the United States is savagely attacked, its honor impugned by a lying, child molesting, thieving, hypocritical Marxist gangster, I question the president’s judgment in sitting there and calmly “taking notes.”
Later, the president failed again to defend the United States when he gave a milquetoast response:
“To move forward, we cannot let ourselves be prisoners of past disagreements. I’m grateful that President Ortega did not blame me for things that happened when I was three months old. Too often, an opportunity to build a fresh partnership of the Americas has been undermined by stale debates. We’ve all heard these arguments before.”
Has a president ever tried to distance themselves from the history of their own country in such a shocking and narcissistic way? Obama makes absolutely no attempt to answer Ortega or call him the liar that he is. Instead, he shows incredible weakness by, in effect, validating Ortega’s critique while attempting to wash his hands of the history of his own country.
But this is patriotic, of course as I have written about before. Recognizing the faults of America, trying to outdo our foreign critics in trashing one’s own country is leftist dogma. I don’t doubt the president’s patriotism (according to his lights) nor do I mind Obama going around the world apologizing for what he perceives are our mistakes. I expect no better from a liberal. But this is different. The honor of the United States demanded a ringing defense of the many good things we have done and are doing for Latin America. The scales may not balance but to quit the ring without throwing a punch smacks of either cowardice or ignorance.
Obama is no longer a leftist senator projecting his ideological slant and accepting criticism of the U.S. from foreigners as just and necessary. He is now head of state and thus charged with defending the U.S. from attacks like Ortega’s. Someone has to stand up for the United States in forums like the summit. In this, the president has failed his first big test as chief executive. The State Department can’t be counted on to defend America from such attacks (Secretary Clinton wouldn’t even talk about the Ortega rant.) Only one person is charged by history and tradition to call out the lying thugs who besmirch the name of the U.S. and thus, deliver a slap in the face not just to the government but the people of America as well.
The president’s meek acceptance of Ortega’s largely unjustified criticism may play well among his ideological soul mates but for the rest of us, it causes one to wonder if there is any calumny, any lie, any exaggerated falsehood that Obama would balk at accepting.
Judging by what happened at the summit, I wouldn’t get my hopes up if I were you.