Obama’s Failed Experiment

 
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In science, when you conduct an experiment to test a theory and get a result you didn’t expect, you learn from the experience and re-think your theory. But what do you do in politics, when you implement a policy you were certain would succeed but which fails miserably? We’re about to find out.

For seven years now, President Obama has been conducting what may well be one of history’s greatest political experiments. His revolutionary theory — which this Copernicus-from-Chicago articulates with such supreme confidence that he’s persuaded American voters to elect him twice to the presidency — is that the world would be a safer, less violent place if the United States played a smaller role on the global stage. At the core of this theory lies his hypothesis that American military power is more the problem than the solution; that our over-reliance on guns rather than brains had de-stabilized key parts of the world, such as the Mideast, that would otherwise have been more peaceful and prosperous.

This theory completely overturned the traditional view of how the world works, which had been held by every post-World War II president from Harry Truman to George W. Bush: namely, that the world depends on American leadership, and on the willingness of American presidents to use our military power to keep the globe relatively stable and under control. The first corollary of this traditional theory is that, while of course we make mistakes from time to time, American power is overall a force for good. The second corollary is that shouldering this global responsibility — and absorbing its horrific costs in terms of money and casualties — is part of what it means to be the United States; we are truly an exceptional country because we do all this to make the world a better, safer place and we never ask for anything in return.

The results of President Obama’s experiment now are pouring in. In Afghanistan, the very-nearly-defeated Taliban is surging. Iraq — which was stable, intact, and at peace when George W. Bush left the White House — is engulfed in violence, breaking apart, and now a proud ally of Iran, whose leaders chant “Death to America” without the slightest fear of retribution. Indeed, the mullahs in Teheran are about to receive a $150 billion windfall from the US itself, for signing onto a meaningless nuclear agreement.

The Terrorists are Coming

Meanwhile, Russia has sent its warplanes to bomb American-supported insurgents in Syria, while shipping anti-aircraft missile systems to Iran to defeat or forestall an Israeli attack on that country’s nuclear bomb factories — which are being built with Russian help. Christianity is being obliterated throughout the Mideast. All this turmoil has triggered the greatest flood of refugees since the end of World War II — a flood that now engulfs Europe and threatens the survival of that continent’s political institutions. Since it’s obvious there are terrorists planted among these waves of refugees, deadly attacks in Europe and perhaps even here in the US, are now likely.

Elsewhere in the world, Ukraine is fighting for its life while its Baltic neighbors brace themselves for Moscow-directed mischief. North Korea keeps building nukes, while China builds military bases across the Pacific and wages cyber-warfare against American citizens and companies at absolutely no cost to itself.

From even this brief and incomplete summary of results from President Obama’s great global experiment, it’s obvious that words like “disaster” and “catastrophe” don’t begin to capture the magnitude of its failure. If our president thought like a scientist, right now he would be sitting quietly in his office and re-thinking his theory. But he’s a politician, and every indication from Washington is that the president means to keep going in the same ghastly direction, maybe even double down and find a hapless scapegoat or two to blame. There is no indication whatsoever that he will learn from experience and change his policy. (Reader, were it not for my legendary good manners and respect for the office of the presidency, this is where I’d remind you of the old adage: You can always tell a Harvard man. However, you cannot tell him very much.)

Making the Best of It

In the short term, there isn’t much we can do to stop the forces our president has set into motion. But as citizens and voters, there is one thing we can do to make the best of a bad situation and, perhaps, avoid this sort of thing from happening again: we can start to import the methodology of science into politics. In other words, we can start to focus less on party and personality, and more on results. This means throwing our support to candidates for public office who propose policies that have been proven to work. And it means rejecting candidates who propose policies that have been tried before, and failed each time.

As the world changes and new policies are proposed to deal with these changes — and this will happen from time to time — let’s undertake each new policy as scientists would undertake an experiment. If it gives us the result we hoped for and expected, great; we’ve added one more piece to the puzzle of politics. If the experiment fails — and this too will happen from time to time, even with the best of intentions and brilliant implimentation — let’s learn from experience by reverting to the old policy or by trying another new approach that seems promising. And let’s keep experimenting and learning until we get it right.

Human nature doesn’t change. Politics will always be a rough game, and power will always be an aphrodisiac to those who play it. But so long as politicians need our votes to get elected, the ultimate power lies with us. If we citizens will give our support, and our votes, to only those candidates who will think and act more like scientists, over time we can change the culture of politics itself. That would be a huge leap forward not only for our country, but for humanity.

There are 70 comments.

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  1. Hammer, The Member

    Obama: America’s Failed Experiment

    • #1
    • October 2, 2015, at 9:31 AM PDT
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  2. James Gawron Thatcher

    Herb,

    So beautifully said and so very clear.

    Thanks.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #2
    • October 2, 2015, at 9:36 AM PDT
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  3. Herbert E. Meyer Contributor
    Herbert E. Meyer Post author

    Jim,

    Thank you.

    Herb

    • #3
    • October 2, 2015, at 9:42 AM PDT
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  4. Ralphie Member

    “that our over-reliance on guns rather than brains had de-stabilized key parts of the world”

    In military speak, I thought guns (force and strength of force) neutralized situations, not destablized. If one guy is trying to break into your house, you want multiple cops to show up, not just one.

    I do not find this president brainy, nor his advisors. I think he is invested in this world view, where by the force of his personality he can control everything he desires. He has been able to be sustained by the previous decades of built up good will and achievement, kind of like he is draining America’s bank account in more ways than one.

    I think Stanley Baldwin said that democracies are slow to act because they have to get the public to go along (or something like that.) After WWI the appetite for war was very low, and in spite of the evidence Germany was gearing up, no amount of warning could persuade the British people that they need to worry until it became obvious and almost too late.

    As the mayor of Las Vegas said once, this President is a slow learner, and if he is slow, it seems the public will be slower based on history.

    • #4
    • October 2, 2015, at 9:43 AM PDT
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  5. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… Member

    I think that Obama would respond that he’s trying to reverse the effects of 70 years of American imperialism, which followed about 100-150 years of largely British and French imperialism. Everything is not going to get better overnight.

    I don’t agree with him, but I think this is a viable response. An analogy is curing cancer. The surgery and chemotherapy hurt the patient badly, and if you assess his condition in the middle of treatment, it might be worse than it would have been had you done nothing. But the treatment (might) cure the patient in the long run.

    • #5
    • October 2, 2015, at 9:49 AM PDT
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  6. Larry3435 Member

    Arizona Patriot:I think that Obama would respond that he’s trying to reverse the effects of 70 years of American imperialism, which followed about 100-150 years of largely British and French imperialism. Everything is not going to get better overnight.

    I don’t agree with him, but I think this is a viable response. An analogy is curing cancer. The surgery and chemotherapy hurt the patient badly, and if you assess his condition in the middle of treatment, it might be worse than it would have been had you done nothing. But the treatment (might) cure the patient in the long run.

    And if the patient dies, you can always blame it on Bush.

    • #6
    • October 2, 2015, at 9:55 AM PDT
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  7. She Thatcher
    She

    Arizona Patriot:I think that Obama would respond that he’s trying to reverse the effects of 70 years of American imperialism, which followed about 100-150 years of largely British and French imperialism. Everything is not going to get better overnight.

    I don’t agree with him, but I think this is a viable response. An analogy is curing cancer. The surgery and chemotherapy hurt the patient badly, and if you assess his condition in the middle of treatment, it might be worse than it would have been had you done nothing. But the treatment (might) cure the patient in the long run.

    It’s a viable response if you do not believe that Western civilization is an admirable thing, and if what you’re trying to do is reduce the influence of any nations that practice it, and to make sure that it is not aspirational, in fact it is reviled, in all other parts of the world.

    I don’t agree with your analogy, if what you’re saying is that by curing the ‘cancer’ of Imperialism, and encouraging these countries to return to the state they were in before they were infected by it, Obama is in fact ‘curing’ the world, or making it a better place. I do not believe that anything g could be further from the truth.

    • #7
    • October 2, 2015, at 10:14 AM PDT
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  8. Eric Hines Inactive

    You don’t understand. The facts are wrong, not the theory.

    [T]he fault in that case lies with the democratic tradition; and the erroneous and misleading tradition must yield before the march of constructive national democracy…. [T]he average American individual is morally and intellectually inadequate to serious and consistent conception of his responsibilities as a democrat.

    Eric Hines

    • #8
    • October 2, 2015, at 10:18 AM PDT
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  9. MarciN Member

    A wise and true essay.

    But you can’t blame Harvard completely. David French and Tom Cotton also went there. :)

    • #9
    • October 2, 2015, at 10:19 AM PDT
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  10. Rodin Member

    Arizona Patriot:I think that Obama would respond that he’s trying to reverse the effects of 70 years of American imperialism, which followed about 100-150 years of largely British and French imperialism. Everything is not going to get better overnight.

    I don’t agree with him, but I think this is a viable response.

    What are the “effects” of “imperialism” ? : a higher standard of living. There is still poverty, famine and pestilence. But, in general, there has been a net world-wide improvement that would not have occurred in the absence of “imperialism.” The global economy sits on an infrastructure built by “imperialism.” Impoverished areas have access to food and other goods that would never have been available without the infrastructure.

    Obamaoist dreaming of a world before sin is not a viable response. And “leading from behind” and an America in decline is not the pathway to that place where unicorns prance and gender/specie neutral joy is found.

    • #10
    • October 2, 2015, at 11:32 AM PDT
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  11. Ekosj Inactive

    I think Az Patriot has hit the nail on the head. Obama, I think, would disagree that the experiment has failed. Remember, he wants America to recede into the background on world affairs. We should be more like Belgium – host to important international agencies and actors but rarely offering an opinion of their own. And other states and peoples must come forward to take their rightful places in the sun of the international stage. This process will not be without its problems … But in the long run its best for everybody. That is the Obama legacy as I think he sees it. And I think he is actually proud of it. We are horrified. But I think he views it as a success..

    • #11
    • October 2, 2015, at 1:15 PM PDT
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  12. Ray Kujawa Coolidge

    Herbert E. Meyer: But what do you do in politics, when you implement a policy you were certain would succeed but which fails miserably? We’re about to find out.

    For seven years now, President Obama has been conducting what may well be one of history’s greatest political experiments. His revolutionary theory — which this Copernicus-from-Chicago articulates with such supreme confidence that he’s persuaded American voters to elect him twice to the presidency — is that the world would be a safer, less violent place if the United States played a smaller role on the global stage. At the core of this theory lies his hypothesis that American military power is more the problem than the solution; that our over-reliance on guns rather than brains had de-stabilized key parts of the world, such as the Mideast, that would otherwise have been more peaceful and prosperous.

    You place over-reliance on the rationale being truthfully stated, as if we were actually running an experiment or a business. But we must remember the venue for this discussion. Key word here is in politics. The policy has succeeded, but not on the terms that were necessary to win its broad public support. The policy obtained support originally from moderates for the reasons stated, and on those reasons it might reasonably be deemed a failure, thus putting their continued support at risk. But the policy obtained and will continue to retain support from leftists who would feel the nation has no business interfering and that our attention ought to be focused on ourselves, i.e., make more resources available for social spending programs. On that basis, the justification, or rather we ought to emphasize, the actual policy regardless of the justification, has to be considered a success from a liberal or progressive position. Here liberal and progressive support will never wain, and any excuse that seems plausible (to an average moderate) is a good excuse.

    The only problem for liberals and progressives now is that their marketing plan is losing adherents because the policies are failing so obviously.

    • #12
    • October 2, 2015, at 1:36 PM PDT
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  13. She Thatcher
    She

    Ekosj:I think Az Patriot has hit the nail on the head.Obama, I think, would disagree that the experiment has failed. Remember, he wants America to recede into the background on world affairs.We should be more like Belgium – host to important international agencies and actors but rarely offering an opinion of their own. And other states and peoples must come forward to take their rightful places in the sun of the international stage. This process will not be without its problems … But in the long run its best for everybody.That is the Obama legacy as I think he sees it. And I think he is actually proud of it.We are horrified.But I think he views it as a success..

    I agree. I think BHO is sure he’s succeeded. And perhaps he has. If he has, I think I agree with Rush, and I wish he’d failed. Because I think he’s wrong.

    If that’s what AP was saying, then I agree that he’s on the right track. But I’m not sure that’s what he was saying, because calling something a ‘viable response’ implies at least some level of agreement, to me at least.

    • #13
    • October 2, 2015, at 1:38 PM PDT
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  14. GrannyDude Member

    Arizona Patriot:I think that Obama would respond that he’s trying to reverse the effects of 70 years of American imperialism, which followed about 100-150 years of largely British and French imperialism. Everything is not going to get better overnight.

    I don’t agree with him, but I think this is a viable response. An analogy is curing cancer. The surgery and chemotherapy hurt the patient badly, and if you assess his condition in the middle of treatment, it might be worse than it would have been had you done nothing. But the treatment (might) cure the patient in the long run.

    I agree—that would be Obama’s response. And, in a way, I can see it as viable, too, at least if you take Europe after WW2 as an analogy.

    At great cost, we helped to stabilize a continent that hadn’t been really stable and peaceful for… well, forever, really. After a certain amount of time had passed, and the Europeans seemed to have their act together, we backed off and let them get on with it. This was what GWB envisioned happening in the Middle East, wasn’t it? That there would be a period of intensive US investment (of the blood-and-treasure variety) followed by a withdrawal as the nations of the ME gained competence to manage themselves in a reasonably free and democratic manner.

    One could argue that GWB didn’t make enough of an investment in B and T at the time, and openly measured the time needed as mere months, not years or decades. In any case, by 2007 the US population was no longer on board with the project. Obama was elected on a promise to back off because backing off was what everyone wanted. That he could make a reasonable-sounding argument for doing so was helpful, too, of course. But it was the back-off that we voted for.

    Unfortunately, it was too soon, and probably (contra Bush/Cheney/Rummy) too soon by a few decades. The next president, whoever he/she is, will have to cope with the results; if being the worlds policeman is an unpopular notion, it will be interesting to see how the politics of becoming the world’s janitor will play out. If we’re really, really lucky, Obama will turn out to be right, (or right enough—these things are always iffy) and the world will eventually stabilize itself without sending American troops to spend some more time in the sandbox trying to clean up the mess. Not holding my breath, just saying my prayers.

    • #14
    • October 2, 2015, at 2:20 PM PDT
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  15. JimGoneWild Coolidge

    Herb, Thanks. But isn’t all this just part of socialist take down of America rather than a different way of state craft? By weakening America and strengthening other countries, and making countries more equal, they can cast the socialist net wider. With a policeman ready to billy-club thump the bad guys it, there can be no progressive march.

    • #15
    • October 2, 2015, at 4:24 PM PDT
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  16. Herbert E. Meyer Contributor
    Herbert E. Meyer Post author

    Hi, JimGoneWild,

    You’re welcome and — you make a good point. The Democrats/Lefties/Socialists/Progressives do indeed want to weaken us. But they never told voters that the result of doing this would be a more violent, less stable world. (You and I might have grasped that this would happen, but it wasn’t broadly understood by the voting public.)

    My point is that now ordinary people — voters — can see the results of what I’m calling an “experiment.” So in the future, it’s the responsibility of voters to judge the result of “experiments” — another word for “policies” and then vote accordingly.

    • #16
    • October 2, 2015, at 4:42 PM PDT
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  17. Marvin Folkertsma Contributor

    Excellent essay, Herb! The situation reminds many of us of the 1930s, in that the removal of great power influence in an area burgeoning with despots can only make the situation worse, perhaps disastrous. No question that Putin has the sort of contempt for Obama that Hitler had for Chamberlain. Putin, I think, knows exactly what he is doing; and he has a full sixteen months left to do it.

    • #17
    • October 2, 2015, at 5:53 PM PDT
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  18. MACHO GRANDE' (aka - Chri… Coolidge

    I doubt Barry was paying attention, but Bibi’s speech at the UN was for him, and he didn’t attend – and he didn’t allow his Sec State to attend, either.

    There’s a reason why cowards don’t show up to a fight.

    • #18
    • October 2, 2015, at 6:07 PM PDT
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  19. Ball Diamond Ball Inactive

    Herb, I agree with much of what you say, but I have rarely read a more capital-P Progressive call to action.

    We are *currently* in the grip of “scientific” leadership. The rest is No True Scot.

    There is no uncertainty as to what will happen. There is nothing revolutionary about this experiment except its method of inciting revolt. Maybe I’ll write more on this later. Maybe not. Facts are pointless. Results, policies, science, all of it is nonsense without the good-old fashioned muscular morality that says “What you are doing is wrong, and I will accept risk to stop you.”

    Asking science to make our decisions is ducking our responsibilities as moral beings, and relegates us to the status of rats in a maze. Finally, there is no more concrete example of the full horror of “politically correct” than a supposed conservatism which can prove, through geometric logic (as they say), that your politics are suspect, comrade.

    In order to make your prescription make sense, it helps to grant “honest mistake” status to the Alinskyite Progressive wing of international and American politics. These are not mistakes, and they are not honest. Any program of solutions predicated upon the assumption that they are amenable to fact-based correction merely plays into their hands.

    • #19
    • October 2, 2015, at 8:19 PM PDT
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  20. Dr. Strangelove Thatcher

    The majority of American voters foolishly attempted to vote themselves a holiday from history by electing Obama. Of course had they the slightest knowledge of how the world works they would have known that was impossible.

    The Middle East and south central Asia were already some of worst the hell-holes of the world. Those voted for Obama have managed to increase the rate human slaughter and overall misery in these regions.

    Of course the Obama voters didn’t intend to accelerate the Middle Eastern killing fields; they didn’t know what they were doing in the first place. The thousands of murdered Arabs, Kurds, and Yazidi are not the victims of the Obama voters’ malice; they are the victims of the Obama voters’ stupidity.

    Now the MSM job is to prevent the Obama voters from learning what harm they have done.

    • #20
    • October 2, 2015, at 8:26 PM PDT
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  21. Ball Diamond Ball Inactive

    Something has changed, however. What takes decades to build can now be trashed in short order. The current system continues to operate, as it did in Rome, but the thing that made it actually work is broken, and it’s not coming back.

    Imagine trying to mount an Iraq or Afghanistan operation now. We were engaged in a single global conflict, and we have decided to lose. Even given the most miraculous of voter turnarounds, electing perfect incumbents, until we extirpate the poison in our midst, we will not be capable of doing anything beyond dying for nothing.

    I resent your insinuation, sir!
    • #21
    • October 2, 2015, at 8:51 PM PDT
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  22. Zafar Member

    Pax Americana had/has a lot of things going for it (not least the pax) – but it’s fair to say that in the Middle East it kept a lid on conflicts (pre-existing and new) rather than resolving them.

    And those conflicts festered, as conflicts tend to do in that situation, which turned out to be increasingly less stable.

    Hence: Arab Spring. It didn’t arise out of a situation where people felt they could resolve their issues within the existing system, but rather from a situation where they knew that they couldn’t.

    (You could compare the whole thing to [on a smaller scale] Tito keeping a lid on the Balkan tinderbox. Different actors, certainly, [I hope] different intentions [mostly], but similar kaflooey type outcomes. Which makes me think that good intentions don’t make up for prosecuting a policy that consistently prioritises suppressing conflicts over resolving them even if that has a lower immediate cost.)

    It’s commendable to take a cold look at US foreign policy – but to be fair, look at it in context. And focus, please, on its outcomes (all of them, good and bad) rather than your intentions (which is where the American Exceptionalism thing creeps in) – because the outcomes are what really matter. (Good intentions are just intentions.)

    Criticising a flawed policy isn’t automatically an attack on what you think makes the US special. And defending American Exceptionalism doesn’t adequately justify flawed policy outcomes. Two different issues, imho.

    • #22
    • October 2, 2015, at 10:30 PM PDT
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  23. SParker Member

    Herbert E. Meyer: As the world changes and new policies are proposed to deal with these changes — and this will happen from time to time — let’s undertake each new policy as scientists would undertake an experiment.

    Woodrow Wilson might have said that, and it’s had predictable results–ironically. Physics is amenable to the approach, but politics and political economy, as nearly as I can tell, operate under the laws of Chuck Jones’ Physics (with measuring devices from Acme). Beyond that, it places a heavy burden on politicians to make a coherent statement of the problems and what they expect to see from the implemented policies and upon the electorate to sit still while they explain it all to us. Generally doing less of whatever it is the political critters think they’re doing at any given moment is probably the best policy. Lazy, perhaps, but not a bad idea.

    • #23
    • October 2, 2015, at 10:49 PM PDT
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  24. Ball Diamond Ball Inactive

    Zafar, I agree with much that you say here. American Exceptionalism was the obligation and freedom that came with being demonstrated honest broker liberators. So long as others felt they could appeal to a moral superpower, we had super powers and a moral duty.
    Now that we are merely large, not exceptional, no longer super, the rest can burn in Hell for all I care.
    It’s not my problem anymore, because I’m not allowed to solve it. That middle ground is the Boxer trap.

    • #24
    • October 2, 2015, at 10:52 PM PDT
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  25. Ball Diamond Ball Inactive

    SParker, well said. The job of the politician should be to elucidate the moral in the proposal. If our values are worthy and our vision is sound, then we should ba able to weigh what we hear using the human talents that surpass a merely logical faculty.
    Gavin DeBecker’s The Gift of Fear is an excellent apology for intuition, and a suitable cornerstone for a Sowellian conservative appreciation of wisdom, and rejection of sophistry.

    • #25
    • October 2, 2015, at 10:59 PM PDT
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  26. Al Kennedy Member

    Ekosj:But in the long run its best for everybody.That is the Obama legacy as I think he sees it. And I think he is actually proud of it.We are horrified.But I think he views it as a success..

    I believe you are right. I think another factor is that Valerie Jarrett, gatekeeper supreme, prevents President Obama from ever having to interact with anyone who disagrees with him. The entire White House staff, chosen by Jarrett, never advances a contrary position. He only hears praise and agreement, never criticism. He is going to be a very surprised person when the histories of his presidency are written. Obama is simply not in touch with reality to the detriment of America and its allies..

    • #26
    • October 2, 2015, at 11:39 PM PDT
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  27. Al Kennedy Member

    Herb, thanks very much for a excellent, well written post. Sadly, I think you described the current situation exactly.

    • #27
    • October 2, 2015, at 11:42 PM PDT
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  28. Al Kennedy Member

    Herbert E. Meyer:Hi, JimGoneWild,

    You’re welcome and — you make a good point. The Democrats/Lefties/Socialists/Progressives do indeed want to weaken us. But they never told voters that the result of doing this would be a more violent, less stable world. (You and I might have grasped that this would happen, but it wasn’t broadly understood by the voting public.)

    My point is that now ordinary people — voters — can see the results of what I’m calling an “experiment.” So in the future, it’s the responsibility of voters to judge the result of “experiments” — another word for “policies” and then vote accordingly.

    Herb, I think the other point about this is that candidate Obama never described the intent of his foreign policy in either of his two elections. It really didn’t start to be clear to observer’s until the negotiations over the Iran nuclear pact became public. He has still not formally defined a policy in a formal speech. Therefore, no discussion of this proposed change in foreign policy ever took place. Obama blindsided us.

    • #28
    • October 2, 2015, at 11:52 PM PDT
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  29. Ball Diamond Ball Inactive

    Al Kennedy:

    “Obama blindsided us.”

    Blindsided whom? Many were the voices who warned that his goal was to weaken and debase America. The American electorate was well informed. They chose to listen to what they wanted to hear. No amount of careful knob-twiddling will fix this.

    I hold most culpable the Republicans such as John McCain who refused to take leather to this bastard when given a chance. At least Romney has a nice-guy nature to blame for his reticence. JSM, not so much.

    Obama is a symptom of a corrupt GOP. We expect red diaper babies to act out commie nightmares. We did not expect such complicity from a thoroughly compromised Republican Establishment. This “matter of inches” is now yards away.

    • #29
    • October 3, 2015, at 12:10 AM PDT
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  30. Al Kennedy Member

    Ball Diamond Ball:Al Kennedy:

    “Obama blindsided us.”

    Blindsided whom?Many were the voices who warned that his goal was to weaken and debase America.The American electorate was well informed.They chose to listen to what they wanted to hear.No amount of careful knob-twiddling will fix this.

    BDB, sorry I can’t agree. The press did not vet Obama in 2008, and McCain did not pound home Obama’s radical background. The only discussion of Mideast policy was how fast can we get out of Iraq.

    In 2012, Romney did identify Putin and Iran as major risks, but he didn’t directly attack what he might have discerned Obama’s policy to be. Obama was very close mouthed about his Mideast policy in 2008 and 2012.

    • #30
    • October 3, 2015, at 1:33 AM PDT
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