This one hammers home the Obama-as-empty-chair meme with respect to national security…
Those of us on the Right have been screaming about how the mainstream media has completely let the President off the hook for his failure to lead amid the Middle East burning to the ground. And it’s a valid subject to scream about.
But if the media won’t cover Obama’s poor performance for free, then buying ads to put it in front of the public is a good way to press the issue.
And given that the sequence of events in both Egypt and Libya is so bad that he can’t withstand the kind of scrutiny a full defense of their policy would bring on, how does he respond?
It’s stuff like this which indicates to us that the debate on Oct. 16, which will be the foreign-policy debate, might be every bit the beatdown last night’s debate was.
And that could be true even despite evidence the Obama administration’s policy of trying to let sanctions work against Iran in order to stop their nuclear program might actually end up being a success…
Ahmadinejad’s been reduced to begging Iranians at press conferences not to convert their currency, which has lost four-fifths of its value this year, to something more stable. Israel, meanwhile, is sufficiently impressed that’s it veering away from the war track and towards calling for more sanctions. (Over the weekend, Israel’s finance minister claimed that Iran’s economy is on the verge of collapse.) One expert put it this way recently for WaPo:
“Two clocks are now running: a nuclear clock and regime-change clock,” said Clifford Kupchan, a former State Department official who now serves as a private consultant on the Middle East. “Sanctions have put a big hole in the revenue side of Iran’s budget, but the leadership doesn’t yet know that it’s on a cliff.”
“So are sanctions changing the nuclear program? No,” Kupchan said. “Are they buying time so the regime-change clock can run down? I’d say yes.”
Of course, rioting in the streets of Tehran and Tabriz doesn’t mean you get the Green Revolution in Iran we were hoping for (and blew a shot at when Obama failed to support the people in the streets in 2009). If you get regime change in Iran it probably doesn’t come peacefully; what’s more likely is a Libya and not an Egypt.
Obama couldn’t handle Iran-as-Libya. Anybody could handle Iran-as-Egypt; that part is easy. And what comes after the mullahs in Iran can’t be anything but an improvement.
The point being that while Obama can tout the potential success of the sanctions in Iran, he’s got a bit higher hill to climb in making the case that he’s the guy to steer the ship while Iran figures out what comes after the ayatollahs. And Romney hasn’t made a lot of definitive statements of policy on Iran to date. This is what he said in the Wall Street Journal op-ed he wrote over the weekend about the Middle East where Iran is concerned…
In this period of uncertainty, we need to apply a coherent strategy of supporting our partners in the Middle East—that is, both governments and individuals who share our values.
This means restoring our credibility with Iran. When we say an Iranian nuclear-weapons capability—and the regional instability that comes with it—is unacceptable, the ayatollahs must be made to believe us.
Obama could maybe spike the ball and say he was right about sanctions and that he does have credibility with Iran, but Romney didn’t say we should invade the place or anything. He wouldn’t be repudiated if Iran is in chaos thanks to the sanctions in 10 days or so – if anything, Romney would have an opening to say “We need to support the freedom fighters to the hilt” and declare that we have an opportunity to eliminate the gravest American national security threat in front of us if we play our cards right. He could then say we should have taken the opportunity when it was first presented in 2009, which would probably negate Obama on that issue.
But Egypt and Libya are going to dominate the foreign policy debate, rather than Iran. And the reality is as it’s presented in the ad above. There really isn’t any escape from that.