"President Obama has been taking a truckload of flak from the right for his measured response to the crises embroiling the Middle East," MSNBC's Martin Bashir harumphed as he opened his "Clear the Air" commentary on the March 1 program.
"Measured is my word because it's certainly not one that right-wing pundits have been using," Bashir complained.
Of course the term "measured" implies deliberate calculation and an overarching strategy, whereas the timeline of the Obama administration response to Libya suggests there has been, objectively speaking, some amount of "dithering" by team Obama.
Amazed that, "to date, not a single American life has been lost," Bashir concluded that Obama "actually managed to walk a careful line between encouraging protests without encouraging protesters to blame America for all their troubles."
Of course, this wasn't the case with Obama's similarly "measured" response to the Iranian protests two years ago, when the theocratic regime repeated ad nauseam its usual complaints that the Great Satan was behind the opposition movement.
Indeed, back then Obama was careful not to explicitly endorse the opposition movement and sent signals that he still hoped for nuclear talks with the Ahmadinejad regime.
What's more, is Bashir actually suggesting that American foreign policy in the Middle East must be governed by the fear of propaganda efforts of this country's enemies?
It's one thing to say that President Obama must be careful not to give political and rhetorical ammunition to those who can play on anti-Americanism in the Arab street, but it's quite another to do next to nothing to lend our support to opposition movements that are homegrown, on the verge of toppling dictators, and practically begging for our help.
Here's a transcript of the commentary, courtesy of my colleague Scott Whitlock:
MARTIN BASHIR: Time now to clear the air. And President Obama has been taking a truckload of flak from the right for his measured response to the crises embroiling the Middle East. Measured is my word because it's certainly not one that right-wing pundits have been using. For instance, Paul Wolfowitz has criticized the administration's response to the conflict in Libya, saying "he situation calls for urgent action, not just improved rhetoric." And not to be outdone, Bill Kristol, Wolfie's former associate in that band of brothers known as neocons, says "the dithering of the Obama administration has raised a more fundamental question, have our elites become so encumbered by self-doubt, so weakened by sophistication, that they are incapable of acting decisively?"
But is the President really dithering or has he been deliberately cautious? Maybe he's been thinking about that pledge made by Paul Wolfowitz in 2002 that U.S. troops would be welcomed into Iraq with flowers, something that still hasn't happened. You see, I'm not so sure that their strategy of strike first, think later, is really all that effective when it comes to Middle Eastern patriarchs like Hosni Mubarak or Colonel Qadhafi. President Obama has actually managed to walk a careful line between encouraging protests without encouraging protesters to blame America for all their troubles. Indeed nobody is calling the United States the Great Satan, nor is anyone suggesting that America is responsible for the unrest. In fact, Qadhafi has been reduced to blaming al Qaeda and the elicit use of drugs for the protests. And who knows if he's right.
You see, Paul Wolfowitz and Bill Kristol may have short memories, but the President seems to know his history and particularly as it relates to Teddy Roosevelt. Speak softly and carry a big stick. He may even be thinking of the 18th century poet Alexander Pope who wrote those immortal words "Fools rush in where angels fear to tread." And right now, the big stick is sailing toward Libya and to date, not a single American life has been lost. I think in today's circumstances cautious resolve is proving to be the better part of valor.