14 March 2014

OIP Derangement Syndrome Means Having It Both Ways

Dana Millbank noted a pattern in criticism of President Barack Obama’s policy toward Ukraine in the Washington Post:
A month ago, the Heritage Foundation president, former senator Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), called Obama a “playground bully” and an “imperial president.” Now DeMint accuses him of making “weak statements” that will “only invite aggression.”

Six weeks ago, Rep. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), a Senate candidate [shown here courtesy of the Arkansas Times], posted a photo of Obama on Facebook with the messages “Stop the imperial president” and “Stop the Obama power grab.” Now Cotton has issued a statement accusing the president of “trembling inaction.” . . .

In theory, it is possible for Obama to rule domestic politics with an iron fist and yet play the 98-pound weakling in foreign affairs. But it doesn’t make a lot of sense that one person would vacillate between those two extremes. A better explanation is Obama’s critics are so convinced that he is wrong about everything that they haven’t paused to consider the consistency of their accusations.

Obama is neither tyrant nor pushover. In general, the criticism of him being inconsistent and indecisive is closer to the mark. But the accusation that he has been feckless in Ukraine is still dubious, because those demanding a stronger response have been unable to come up with one.

After Obama threatened Friday that “there will be costs” to Russia’s action in Ukraine, my colleague Charles Krauthammer, who in the past likened the president to Napoleon, said on Fox News that “everybody is shocked by the weakness of Obama’s statement.”

But if Obama had made specific threats toward Russia, he would have set himself up for the conservatives’ criticism of his Syria policy — that he was drawing “red lines” that he wasn’t prepared to enforce. And suppose he were willing to draw red lines and back them up with military might. Inevitably, he’d be accused of trying to distract from Obamacare or other domestic troubles, as he was when he threatened a military strike on the Syrian regime.
As tracked back here and here, the Republican rank and file and many Republican lawmakers were happy to criticize President Obama’s “inaction” on Syria right up until the week he proposed military action, and then they swiveled around to face the other direction.

Now that Syria’s chemical weapons are being destroyed, those same people are back to complaining that Obama did too little on Syria. And as evidence they point to his policy on Ukraine without offering a discernible (or discernibly different) policy themselves.

But of course those people aren’t really criticizing on the basis of rational analysis; they’re just acting out OIP Derangement Syndrome.

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