President of Equivocation and Evasion
President Obama’s bouts of equivocation and evasion are worrisome. Even The New York Times, not inclined to editorialize in its news columns except when Israel is the target, noticed. Its page 1 headline (February 12), “A Dual View of War Power,” alerted readers to presidential confusion. Finally seeking authorization for a military campaign against Islamic State terrorists, he simultaneously requested Congressional restrictions on his power as commander in chief to wage that campaign.
Times reporter Peter Baker noted the “essential contradiction” in the President’s proposal. Even as Obama “proposed some handcuffs on his power, he left behind the keys to those shackles should he or his successors decide they are too confining.” Puzzled members of Congress debated whether Obama had set overly confining limitations (Republicans), or proposed “virtually unfettered” powers (Democrats). Their confusion was understandable. As the president himself declared: “We need flexibility but we also have to be careful and deliberate.” More succinctly, the Wall Street Journal lead editorial that same day, entitled “The War Irresolution,” referred to it as “the President Gulliver resolution”: “Tie me down Congress, please.”
Had this been the only recent demonstration of presidential equivocation, evasion and denial, dayenu. But it was preceded only days earlier by a gaffe that made him seem decisive by comparison as the almost-commander in chief. It began with his Vox TV interview when he declared (unequivocally) that the recent Islamist terrorist attack (words the president cannot enunciate) that resulted in the murder of four Jews in the Hyper Cacher kosher market in Paris was the “random” shooting of “a bunch of folks in a deli.” This came after Amedy Coulibaly, the Muslim killer, declared that he had targeted shoppers there “because they were Jewish.”
President Obama’s refusal to identify (Muslim) “terrorist” or (Jewish) victim reached appalling depths of absurdity at press conferences conducted by White House spokesman Josh Earnest and State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki. Doubtlessly tutored by their commander in chief, they displayed a truly remarkable inability to confront the reality that he had despicably evaded.
Earnest was asked by ABC’s Jonathan Karl whether Obama doubted that shoppers in the kosher market were targeted because they were Jews. He responded: “The adverb that the president chose was used to indicate that the individuals who were killed in that terrible, tragic incident were killed not because of who they were but because of where they randomly happened to be. These individuals were not targeted by name.” Karl, appropriately astonished, asked: “Not by name, but by religion, were they not?” Earnest replied (as if he knew): “There were people other than just Jews who were in that deli.” No doubt Earnest, like his boss, had carefully calculated the number of non-Jewish shoppers in the kosher market only a few hours prior to the Jewish Sabbath before referring to them as “folks” or “people.”
Psaki, equally inept, was asked by AP diplomatic reporter Matt Lee whether “the administration really believe that the victims of this attack were not singled out because they were of a particular faith?” Psaki answered: “I believe if I remember the victims specifically, they were not all victims of one background or one nationality.” Questioned further whether the Obama administration “believe this was an anti-Jewish attack on a Jewish community in Paris,” the hapless Psaki could only respond: “I don’t think we’re going to speak on behalf of French authorities and what they believe was the situation.”
Excoriated for their ludicrous responses, Earnest and Psaki turned to Twitter for self-exculpation – and, finally, truth-telling. Earnest: the “terror attack at Paris Kosher market was motivated by anti-Semitism” and Obama “didn’t intend to suggest otherwise” – even if he did. Psaki: it had “always been clear that the attack on the kosher grocery store was an anti-semitic attack.”
Why, asked Arutz-7 journalist Ari Soffer (February 11), was the Obama administration “trying so hard to play down the anti-Semitic nature of the attack?” That question will surely tempt historians and psychiatrists alike. Some analysts may want to begin with President Obama’s relationship with his anti-Semitic former pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright. Others surely will explore his venomous relationship with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, currently played out in advance of the Israeli leader’s address to Congress next month. Surprise: no presidential equivocation there.
Jerold S. Auerbach is a frequent contributor to The Algemeiner