The roots of Obama’s weakness abroad Aug 4, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 44 • By MATTHEW CONTINETTI
In 1983, Barack Obama was a senior at Columbia University. He was not well known. He lived off-campus, had a few close friends, and spent a lot of time reading. He went to some meetings of the Black Students Association, but no one remembers seeing him there. He majored in political science, with a concentration in international relations, and classmates and professors say he was an attentive and intelligent student.
But he was not an active participant in student life. He was not a student radical. He did not go on a hunger strike. He did not storm any administration buildings. One friend, in an interview with biographer David Maraniss, likened Obama to the protagonist of Walker Percy’s The Moviegoer: a passive observer.
As graduation approached, Obama took up his pen. Looking for work as a community organizer, he needed something to add to his thin résumé. He was interested in the arms race between the United States and the Soviet Union, which he was studying in a senior seminar on American diplomacy. “The class analyzed decision-making and the perils of ‘groupthink,’ the ways that disastrous policies, like the escalation of the Vietnam War, develop,” writes biographer David Remnick.
The seminar had just eight students. In class, Obama had a tendency to relate U.S. foreign policy to his upbringing. “He talked about his father being from Kenya so much,” Maraniss writes, “that at least one student assumed Obama himself was from Kenya.” Obama’s final paper for the seminar was on nuclear disarmament. He got an A.
In March 1983, Obama published an article in a student magazine called the Sundial. His piece, titled “Breaking the War Mentality,” drew on the themes of the senior seminar. “Most students at Columbia do not have firsthand knowledge of war,” Obama writes. Though “the most sensitive among us struggle to extrapolate experiences of war from our everyday experience,” it is impossible to know the true costs of war from afar. “Bringing such experiences down into our hearts, and taking continual, tangible steps to prevent war, becomes a difficult task.”
But the task is not impossible. There are goodhearted men and women, Obama writes, volunteers who, despite not knowing what war is really like, “foster awareness and practical action necessary to counter the growing threat of war.” Far-left student groups such as Arms Race Alternatives (ARA) and Students Against Militarism (SAM), Obama says, “are throwing their weight into shifting America off the dead-end track.”
Obama’s sympathies are clear. “The article,” Remnick says, “makes plain Obama’s revulsion at what he saw as Cold War militarism and his positive feelings about the nuclear-freeze movement.” Obama quotes reggae singer and activist Peter Tosh. He recounts a visit to a meeting of Students Against Militarism. “With its solid turnout and enthusiasm,” he writes, “one might be persuaded that the manifestations of our better instincts can at least match the bad ones.”
Obama’s criticism of the antinuke activists is that their focus is too narrow. They aren’t radical enough. “One is forced to wonder whether disarmament or arms control issues, severed from economic and political issues, might be another instance of focusing on the symptoms of a problem instead of the disease itself,” he writes. What “the disease” is, Obama does not say.
In the end, though, Obama says the peace activists have noble motives and worthy aims. “What the members of the ARA and SAM try to do,” he concludes, “is infuse what they have learned about the current situation, bring the words of that formidable roster on the face of Butler Library, names like Thoreau, Jefferson, and Whitman, to bear on the twisted logic of which we are today a part.”
The essay not only reveals Obama’s position on nuclear disarmament. It also offers a glimpse of the milieu in which a president came of age. Most of us form our political identities in young adulthood. Our attitudes, judgments, and preferences are shaped by political circumstances when we are 18 to 25 years old. Obama is no exception. As he reached maturity, the Cold War approached its climax. The most divisive issue in American politics was Ronald Reagan’s foreign policy. The belief that Reagan was a warmonger was deeply held by many people on the left. Obama was one of them.
Aug 4, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 44 • By STEPHEN F. HAYES
Moments of clarity often come when you least expect them. In a speech to contributors last week in Seattle, Barack Obama made the case that his presidency has made America better. In most respects, it was precisely the kind of political pablum you’d expect from a president who seems more concerned with legacy-polishing than governing. He ticked off his accomplishments, a list that was equal parts premature celebration (deficit reduction), hyperbole (Obamacare), and borrowed glory (rising college attendance, a strong stock market, increased energy production).
Aug 4, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 44 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
On Tuesday, President Obama visited the Dutch embassy in Washington to pay his respects to the victims of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, shot down over Ukraine by forces armed and backed by Vladimir Putin. Obama wrote in the embassy’s condolence book, “We will not rest until we are certain that justice is done.”
Then he rested.
Actually, that’s not fair. Obama didn’t rest. He flew off to the West Coast on a busy fundraising trip.
Hosted by Michael Graham.3:33 PM, Jul 21, 2014 • By TWS PODCAST
The WEEKLY STANDARD podcast with senior writer Stephen F. Hayes on Obama, Putin, Ukraine, Netanyahu, Hamas, and Israel.
Jul 28, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 43 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
Last February President Obama launched a new initiative to help “boys and young men of color” facing tough odds in life to stay on track and reach their full potential. At the time we observed in an editorial that there was a not-exactly-minor problem with “My Brother’s Keeper” (as the initiative was dubbed): its exclusionary nature. By “color,” the president meant black and brown, and by “boys and young men,” of course, he meant youthful males of those colors.
Counter ISIS without propping up Maliki.Jul 28, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 43 • By ABRAM N. SHULSKY, ERIC BROWN and HILLEL FRADKIN
Iraqi prime minister Nuri al-Maliki knows what he wants: a third term in office for himself and U.S. military help in defeating ISIS (now the Islamic State). Political reconciliation between Iraq’s Shiites and Sunnis, and between Arabs and Kurds, can wait. In the words of one of his colleagues in the State of Law Coalition: “Things on the ground are much more important.
Jul 21, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 42 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
Last week, Rep. Henry Cuellar, a Texas Democrat, lashed out at President Obama over the border crisis. Since last fall, more than 40,000 unaccompanied minors, mostly from Central America, have been caught illegally trying to enter the country. Cuellar called Obama’s response “aloof,” “bizarre,” and “detached.” He might have added “predictable.”
Hosted by Michael Graham.9:00 AM, Jul 10, 2014 • By TWS PODCAST
The WEEKLY STANDARD podcast with executive editor Fred Barnes on what Presidents Nixon, Reagan, and Clinton had--and President Obama doesn't.
Jul 14, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 41 • By TERRY EASTLAND
On a wide range of matters, including health care, energy, immigration, foreign policy, and education, says House speaker John Boehner, President Obama has ignored some statutes completely, selectively enforced others, and at times created laws of his own, thus failing to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed,” as Article II of the Constitution requires of a president.
What Obama’s descending job approval ratings mean for November. Jun 30, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 40 • By JAY COST
President Barack Obama’s job approval seems to be slipping again. After a brutal couple of months following the failed launch of HealthCare.gov, the Real Clear Politics average of opinion polls found his approval at 40 percent in December. But the government claimed to have fixed HealthCare.gov, never mind the continuing problems, and the “surge” in enrollments gave him a further boost. By mid-April, he was back up to nearly 45 percent approval in the RCP average.
Hosted by Michael Graham.4:45 PM, Jun 19, 2014 • By TWS PODCAST
The WEEKLY STANDARD podcast with staff writer Michael Warren on President Obama's Iraq speech to the press.
Hosted by Michael Graham.5:18 PM, Jun 17, 2014 • By TWS PODCAST
The WEEKLY STANDARD podcast with contributing editor and senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations Max Boot on his recent story "Obama's Iraq."
Hosted by Michael Graham.
3:14 PM, Jun 6, 2014 • By TWS PODCAST
THE WEEKLY STANDARD Podcast with editor William Kristol on the political moment created by the Sgt. Bergdahl-Taliban 5 swap.
The monopartisan president. Jun 16, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 38 • By FRED BARNES
"My goal was to get something done,” President Obama said at a Chicago fundraiser in May. Yet he’s pursuing a strategy that makes it nearly impossible to achieve that. He’s not acting in his own interest.
The president refuses to deal with Republicans in Congress. He claims they’re committed, above all else, to obstructing his entire agenda. So he’s boycotting them, except on rare occasions when he summons Democratic and Republican leaders together to the White House for a formal meeting. That hasn’t occurred since April 3.
How the Obama administration’s story on Bowe Bergdahl and the Taliban fell apartJun 16, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 38 • By STEPHEN F. HAYES
Late in the afternoon of Saturday, May 31, Barack Obama strode confidently to a lectern in the White House Rose Garden flanked by the parents of Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, a soldier who had gone missing from his platoon in the mountains of Afghanistan in June 2009.
“This morning I called Bob and Jani Bergdahl and told them that after nearly five years in captivity, their son, Bowe, is coming home,” Obama said.