Opinion: Berlin an embarrassment for Obama

June 23, 2013


— The question of whether Barack Obama’s second term will be a failure was answered in the affirmative before his Berlin debacle, which has recast the question, which now is: Will this term be silly, even scary in its detachment from reality?

Before Berlin, Obama set his steep downward trajectory by squandering the most precious post-election months on gun-control futilities, and by a subsequent storm of scandals that have made his unvarying project — ever bigger, more expansive, more intrusive and more coercive government — more repulsive. Then came Wednesday’s pratfall in Berlin.

There he vowed energetic measures against global warming (“the global threat of our time”). The 16-year pause of this warming was not predicted by, and is not explained by, the climate models for which, in his strange understanding of respect for science, he has forsworn skepticism.

Regarding another threat, he spoke an almost meaningless sentence that is an exquisite example of why his rhetoric cannot withstand close reading: “We may strike blows against terrorist networks, but if we ignore the instability and intolerance that fuels extremism, our own freedom will eventually be endangered.” So, “instability and intolerance” are to blame for terrorism? Instability where? Intolerance of what by whom “fuels” terrorists? Terrorism is a tactic of destabilization. Intolerance is, for terrorists, a virtue. 

It is axiomatic: Arms control is impossible until it is unimportant. This is because arms control is an arena of competition in which nations negotiate only those limits that advance their interests. Nevertheless, Obama trotted out another golden oldie in Berlin when he vowed to resuscitate the cadaver of nuclear arms control with Russia. As though Russia’s arsenal is a pressing problem. And as though there is reason to think President Vladimir Putin, who calls the Soviet Union’s collapse “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century,” is interested in reducing the arsenal that is the basis of his otherwise Third World country’s claim to great power status. 

Shifting his strange focus from Russia’s nuclear weapons, Obama said “we can ... reject the nuclear weaponization that North Korea and Iran may be seeking.” Were Obama given to saying such stuff off the cuff, this would be a good reason for handcuffing him to a Teleprompter. But, amazingly, such stuff is put on his Teleprompter and, even more amazingly, he reads it aloud.

Neither the people who wrote those words nor he who spoke them can be taken seriously. North Korea and Iran may be seeking nuclear weapons? North Korea may have such weapons. Evidently Obama still entertains doubts that Iran is seeking them.

In Northern Ireland before going to Berlin, Obama sat next to Putin, whose demeanor and body language when he is in Obama’s presence radiate disdain. There Obama said: “With respect to Syria, we do have differing perspectives on the problem, but we share an interest in reducing the violence.” Differing perspectives?

Obama wants to reduce the violence by coaxing Syria’s Bashar al-Assad, who is winning the war, to attend a conference at which he negotiates the surrender of his power. Putin wants to reduce the violence by helping — with lavish materiel assistance and by preventing diplomacy that interferes — Assad complete the destruction of his enemies.

Napoleon said: “If you start to take Vienna — take Vienna.” Douglas MacArthur said that all military disasters can be explained by two words: “Too late.” Regarding Syria, Obama is tentative and, if he insists on the folly of intervening, tardy. He is giving Putin a golden opportunity to humiliate the nation responsible for the “catastrophe.” In a contest between a dilettante and a dictator, bet on the latter.

Obama’s vanity is a wonder of the world that never loses its power to astonish, but really: Is everyone in his orbit too lost in raptures of admiration to warn him against delivering a speech soggy with banalities and bromides in a city that remembers John Kennedy’s “Ich bin ein Berliner” and Ronald Reagan’s “Tear down this wall”? With German Chancellor Angela Merkel sitting nearby, Obama began his Berlin speech: “As I’ve said, Angela and I don’t exactly look like previous German and American leaders.” He has indeed said that, too, before, at least about himself.

It was mildly amusing in Berlin in 2008, but hardly a Noel Coward-like witticism worth recycling.

 His look is just not that interesting. And after being pointless in Berlin, neither is he, other than for the surrealism of his second term.

— George Will is a columnist for Washington Post Writers Group.


Ken Lassman 5 years ago

George primary criticism of Obama, as with many Republicans who are critical of him, can be summarized thusly:

"I don't like him. Because of this, no matter what he does, it's wrong-headed no matter how much sense it makes."

Of course, George throws factoids our way to obfuscate this pathetic critique, the most lame of which is his "cigarettes are just dandy" arguments against the reality of global warming. He now proclaims that the earth hasn't warmed in 16 years! Show me on the plot of combined ocean, air and land temps exactly where the warming has stopped:

from: "Comment on
Ocean heat content and Earth's radiation
imbalance. II. Relation to climate shifts"
Dana Nuccitelli, Robert Way, Rob Painting, John Church and John Cook, March 31, 2012

from: "Comment on Ocean heat content and Earth's radiation imbalance. II. Relation to climate shifts" Dana Nuccitelli, Robert Way, Rob Painting, John Church and John Cook, March 31, 2012 by Ken Lassman

John Kyle 5 years ago

Remember when W went there and gave the German Chancellor an uncomfortable back rub? And now he can't even go to Europe without getting arrested for his crimes against humanity.

Fred Whitehead Jr. 5 years ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

Trumbull 5 years ago

The writer of this piece is an embarrassment to his profession because he shows bias, and makes vague references that requires most readers to have an encyclopedia at hand. He is an example of a propagandist. If someone might unearth some of his articles in, say, a hundred years, he may very well be exposed as just this.

What is this 16 year pause in the warming trend this guy is talking about? Any substance to this? More propaganda?

Ken Lassman 5 years ago

Trumbull wrote: "What is this 16 year pause in the warming trend this guy is talking about? Any substance to this? More propaganda?"

It's pure BS--see the chart a few comments up. There's so much more heat stored in the oceans than on land and in the air (our planet's surface is 3/4 water, after all) and the oceans have absorbed so much more heat thanks to the greenhouse gases that it's not even funny.

Trumbull 5 years ago

I have long thought this writer as dishonest. Irresponsible to boot. Spreading untruth about warming trends is a stalling technique by the status quo. These are the things that can delay positive progress....if there is still hope. If Will is wrong (which there is a good chance), our next generation(s) are going to have a problem on their hands.

Mike Ford 5 years ago

hearing mr. will speak is like hearing a time capsule. he sounds like William Buckley from the grave and is soooo country club you wouldn't find him anywhere near the tea party people. he needs his grey poupon and his car service to Connecticut right? who is this rehash and why is he relevant?

Mike Ford 5 years ago

fact: patronizing tone is not a sign of superior intelligence.....being a partisan hater isn't one either....champion being snarky as fact. half of this country is an embarrassment to the other half and the thinking part of the world.

jhawkinsf 5 years ago

"half of this country is an embarrassment to the other half" - and visa versa.

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