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Obama Still Beats Trump And Cruz

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Obama Still Beats Trump And Cruz

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Cleveland, Obama

An old friend recently told me about a remarkable conversation she’d had with her mother, aged 95. A white woman resident in the Deep South from birth, she’d shown a lifelong indifference, if not aversion, to politics. Her daughter describes her racial attitudes as characteristic of her generation—never a hater, but also no dissenter from how things used to be.

And yet she found herself in front of the TV, watching Barack and Michelle Obama disembarking from Air Force One in Havana last week with tears streaming down her face. He’s such a great man, she told her daughter, and he tries so hard to do the right thing for the country.

And Michelle. Has any First Lady ever exhibited more grace and class?

Why can’t more people see that? She’d asked her somewhat astonished daughter, who said that she personally wished Obama could run for another term—even if the president himself clearly does not.

Actually, polls reflect that people do understand what an extraordinary job President Obama has done under trying circumstances. Every recent survey shows his approval rating above fifty percent, a considerable accomplishment given cult-like opposition from Republican partisans since his 2009 inauguration.

Can anybody doubt that Obama would defeat either leading Republican candidate—the Sideshow Barker and the Snake Charmer alike—in a landslide? Doubtless his increased popularity derives partly from the contrast.

Partly too, it’s what Obama’s managed to do: unemployment under 5 percent and a record 72 consecutive months of job growth. No, things aren’t back to where we’d like them, economically speaking. But they’re headed the right way, and confidence is returning.

Equally important, Obama argues in an extraordinary interview with Jeffrey Goldberg in the April 2016 Atlantic, is what he hasn’t done in foreign policy. Disregarding what he derisively calls “the Washington playbook”—the bellicose pronouncements of the city’s permanent class of think-tank commandos—he has refused to join yet another Middle Eastern civil war in Syria.

What pundits describe as Obama’s worst foreign policy debacle he thinks may have been his finest moment: the August 2013 decision not to bomb Syria after drawing a “red line” in the desert forbidding the use of chemical weapons.

Never mind that Russian president Vladimir Putin helped engineer the removal of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad’s chemical weapons arsenal. Goldberg reports that Hillary Clinton told people “If you say you’re going to strike, you have to strike. There’s no choice.”

But Obama decided it was foolish to take the nation to war over an ill-advised remark — defying not only the foreign policy establishment but also America’s “frustrating, high-maintenance” Middle Eastern allies.

“History,” Goldberg writes “may record August 30, 2013, as the day Obama prevented the U.S. from entering yet another disastrous Muslim civil war, and the day he removed the threat of chemical attack on Israel, Turkey or Jordan. Or it could be remembered as the day he let the Middle East slip from America’s grasp, into the hands of Russia, Iran, and ISIS.”

And good riddance, is Obama’s view. With Iran having negotiated away its nuclear weapons making capacity, what does it matter who referees the region’s endless tribal wars?

Obama’s most urgent priority is killing ISIS “caliph” Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as he killed Osama bin Laden. Otherwise, he told one Senator “There is no way we should commit to governing the Middle East and North Africa. That would be a basic, fundamental mistake.”

Yes, the ongoing catastrophe in Syria is excruciating to watch, and clearly endangers European security. The Turks could crush ISIS at will. As it’s definitely in their national interest, maybe it’s time they summoned some.

As for Putin, Obama demurs from the commonplace view of the Russian leader as a thug. “The truth is,” he says “Putin, in all of our meetings is scrupulously polite, very frank. Our meetings are very businesslike…. He’s constantly interested in being seen as our peer and as working with us, because he’s not completely stupid.”

High praise from a president very impressed with his own brainpower. “Now if there is somebody in this town that would claim that we would consider going to war with Russia over Crimea and eastern Ukraine,” he continued “they should speak up and be very clear about it.”

Prating about “credibility” doesn’t persuade; it’s Russia’s backyard, not ours.

Obama looks at Syria the same way: how many soldiers, sailors and pilots and for how long? Would a U.S. invasion calm sectarian passions?

Well, when has it ever?

At times, Obama concedes that he’s fallen short in the theatrical aspect of the presidency, appearing aloof and cerebral when the public wants passion. But he’s also persuaded that surrendering to “the cable news hype fest” leads to dumb decisions.

Obama says Putin found his frankness in The Atlantic surprising.

“Unlike you, Vladimir,” he joked. “I don’t get to edit the piece before it’s published.”

Photo: U.S. President Barack Obama waves from the door of Air Force One as he ends his visit to Cuba, at Havana’s international airport, March 22, 2016.   REUTERS/Carlos Barria

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Gene Lyons

Gene Lyons is a political columnist and author. Lyons writes a column for the Arkansas Times that is nationally syndicated by United Media. He was previously a general editor at Newsweek as wells an associate editor at Texas Monthly where he won a National Magazine Award in 1980. He contributes to Salon.com and has written for such magazines as Harper's, The New York Times Magazine, The New York Review of Books, Entertainment Weekly, Washington Monthly, The Nation, Esquire, and Slate. A graduate of Rutgers University with a Ph.D. in English from the University of Virginia, Lyons taught at the Universities of Massachusetts, Arkansas and Texas before becoming a full-time writer in 1976. A native of New Jersey, Lyons has lived in Arkansas with his wife Diane since 1972. The Lyons live on a cattle farm near Houston, Ark., with a half-dozen dogs, several cats, three horses, and a growing herd of Fleckvieh Simmental cows. Lyons has written several books including The Higher Illiteracy (University of Arkansas, 1988), Widow's Web (Simon & Schuster, 1993), Fools for Scandal (Franklin Square, 1996) as well as The Hunting Of The President: The 10 Year Campaign to Destroy Bill and Hillary Clinton, which he co-authored with National Memo Editor-in-Chief Joe Conason.

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31 Comments

  1. TZToronto March 30, 2016

    Much as I agree with the article, I know that there are many on the right who still see President Obama as weak for not having sent American troops into the Middle East again to fight the unwinnable war. For these people, going to war is an act of patriotism, especially if it’s someone else’s sons (daughters should stay home and wait for their men to come home, or not) who are fighting and dying. Using drones to attack an enemy (i.e., using your technology) to eliminate your enemies is, apparently, for sissies. The chicken hawks always want more Audie Murphies, forgetting that for every Audie Murphy there are thousands of soldiers who die, often for no reason.

    Reply
    1. FireBaron March 30, 2016

      That’s because Netenyahu and AIPAC have been screaming in the GOP’s collective ears “Where are the US Troops?!?” After all, it wouldn’t be their children that would have to go do defend someone else’ interest.

      Frankly, I agree with the comment that the Turks should be taking a leading role in this. The problem is the current president is an Islamist, and does not see Daesh as a threat to his regime. Once they undertake operations in Turkey that cannot be pinned on the Kurds, Turkey will be forced to finally take action.

      Regarding your Audie Murphy remark – remember, he had what would now be referred to as PTSD. Mood swings, violent actions, depression, etc.

      Reply
      1. TZToronto March 30, 2016

        No argument about Murphy.

        Reply
    2. Dominick Vila March 30, 2016

      Bear in mind that while they criticize President Obama for not sending more troops to the Persian Gulf and Middle East, none of them has proposed doing so.
      Trump and Cruz are opportunists, the same way McConnell is an obstructionist. They are the epitome of incompetence and lack of patriotism, inasmuch as their actions have done more to delay the economic recovery, job creation, and our international credibility, as our worst enemies could have ever done.

      Reply
      1. CrankyToo March 30, 2016

        You make a distinction between Trump, Cruz and McConnell on the one hand, and our worst enemies on the other. From my perspective, those dirtbags (and their cohorts) ARE our worst enemies.

        Reply
    3. Otto T. Goat March 30, 2016

      I think Obama is a fool for overthrowing Ghadaffi and backing rebels in Syria.

      Reply
      1. TZToronto March 30, 2016

        Maaaaaaa, Maaaaaaa

        Reply
      2. iamproteus April 1, 2016

        You are entitled to your opinion as is everyone else…..whether you’re right is open to debate.

        Reply
        1. Otto T. Goat April 1, 2016

          There’s no debating Libya is a fiasco.

          Reply
    4. FT66 April 3, 2016

      They don’t value lives of soldiers the way they do to unborn babies. They don’t think soldiers are; fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, husbands, wives, sons, daughters of someone of whom they love dearly and some depend on them.

      Reply
  2. I of John March 30, 2016

    This article is spot on. Syria was a and is a giant ball of burning hot tar. We are right not to stick our collective foot into it. Let the middle east finally solve it’s own divisions.

    Reply
    1. FireBaron March 30, 2016

      Like may other countries created in the aftermath of WWI, Syria was created from various administrative provinces of the Ottoman Empire. Those groups had no history of cohesion, but their “unification” met the needs of France, who had administrative control of that part of the Levant. Even their decision to carve Lebanon out of what would have been a greater Syria has had its own consequences.
      Other folks also tend to forget it took the House of Sa’ud almost 15 years after WWI to finally gain control of the rest of what we now know as Saudi Arabia, after a long civil war.

      Reply
      1. I of John March 30, 2016

        The world is still paying the price for the Empires of old. Much of the middel east was divided And redivided from on high.

        Reply
    2. Otto T. Goat March 30, 2016

      Obama has been backing Islamist rebels in Syria.

      Reply
      1. I of John March 30, 2016

        We have no army there.

        Reply
        1. Otto T. Goat March 30, 2016

          We’ve sent in Special Ops.

          Reply
      2. Joan April 3, 2016

        If you are not supporting Bashar, then you are supporting Islamist rebels, it is a Muslim country. What is your point? The President tried to find and support moderate fractions in the Syrian civil war, it did not work out that well. The neo cons and liberals were all clamorong that Obama had to do something!
        Our President realized early on that Syrian could become the biggest seamp ever, sucking American lives and resources for years with no good outcome. He has shown great restraint and forethought; both attributes sadly lacking in the GOP.

        Reply
        1. Irishgrammy April 4, 2016

          Extremely well said, Joan! The obvious ignorance of “Otto” AGAIN on full display!

          Reply
  3. Dominick Vila March 30, 2016

    I find mentioning President Obama in the same sentence as Trump and Cruz offensive. President Obama has demonstrated commitment, honor, professionalism, dedication, and a vision throughout his presidency that contrasts with the narcissistic bombast that characterizes Trump’s rhetoric, and the extreme ideology articulated by Cruz.
    When President Obama speaks and acts, he does it on behalf of all Americans, not just the less educated who can be easily swayed to embrace proposals that affect them directly, or extreme religious views that are inconsistent with the tenets of the Constitution, and that discriminate against the rights of fellow Americans who for one reason or another are hated by the still dominant cultural group.
    The former unifies and has succeeded in saving our economy and keeping us safe. The latter are doing everything they can to divide us by using fear and prejudices inconsistent with the values that we purportedly embrace.

    Reply
    1. 1Zoe55 March 30, 2016

      Dear Dom (if I may), As always your analysis is correct and reassuring to those of us who’ve supported President Obama. Now the obstruction based on racism more than any other reason demonstrated by the Republican/Tea Party folks has given birth to the monster Trump. Cruz is even worse with his idea to close down our government, replacing it with a faith-based one. Frankly, I am of the opinion that Cruz should not have the right to run for president, but neither Cruz nor Trump will ever be president.

      Reply
      1. Dominick Vila March 30, 2016

        The de facto promotion of a religious Caliphate by a Cuban-Canadian man should be enough to disqualify anyone from becoming President.
        Interestingly, the same people who questioned the legitimacy of a man born in Hawaii, claiming he was either Kenyan or Indonesian, are the same ones that now support Cruz. It does not take a genius to understand why.

        Reply
  4. latebloomingrandma March 30, 2016

    I believe that 50 years from now, history will treat Obama very well.

    Reply
  5. Ben Franks March 30, 2016

    I have followed Gene Lyons for more than 30 years, I think, because he is one of the few columnists who is nearly always rational, our only disagreement having been over Senator Blanche Lincoln Lambert. Here again today he nails it regarding ‘chickenhawks’ who are always beating the war drums but for someone else, e.g. Dick Cheny of the five deferments, or someone else’s son, e.g. George H.W. Bush, to go to war. ISIS exists because little George Bush, who was never in danger thanks to his dad of going into combat, lied us into war with Iraq. President Obama has handled our response nobly and correctly.

    Reply
  6. Otto T. Goat March 30, 2016

    Obama’s symbolic stuff totally compensates for the anemic job growth.

    Reply
    1. Joan April 8, 2016

      You live in a ” truthiness bubble” you cling to Rushisms. Facts, to you, are what you feel should be true they bear no relationship to any external reality. Also, you seem to have memory loss related to anything that happened pre 2008. Really you are pathetic and I have nothing but compassion for you. Truly hope the air in your bubble holds out; and that the attendants do not cut off your internet. You obviously need to spew your drivel, so drivel and dribble on Otto, you goat.

      Reply
      1. Otto T. Goat April 8, 2016

        It’s a fact job growth has been anemic.

        Reply
  7. Otto T. Goat March 30, 2016

    The Obama administration helped engineer the coup in Ukraine, now he is pretending he hasn’t been aggressive toward Russia.

    Reply
    1. JPHALL March 30, 2016

      As usual Otto you are lost in your own Fascist fantasies.

      Reply
      1. Otto T. Goat March 30, 2016

        Are you five years old? Because you have the mentality of naive child.

        Reply
        1. JPHALL March 30, 2016

          No! The child is you, holding on to a failed philosophy. Hitler is dead and those like you are dying out. You are the long overdo forgotten past.
          Subject: Re: Comment on Obama Still Beats Trump And Cruz

          Reply
    2. Eleanore Whitaker April 14, 2016

      Let me guess…Your hangover from too much Haterade has you reeling with more things you can’t prove?

      Look..let me be the first to tell you that if you make any statement verbally or in writing you can’t prove …it is nothing more than invalid BS. And, that you are so pathetic that you need to rely on rhetoric only ISIS extremists would stoop to shows just how low class you are.

      You might just eat your heart out…you’d eat “it” and die if he ends up with a 3rd term from write ins alone wouldn’t you bag boy?

      Not to worry…when Hillary wins by a landslide, you shitkickers will only have yourselves to blame. Men who are obsessed with power always end up in the toilet.

      Reply

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