Henninger: Obama’s Credibility Is Melting

Henninger: Obama’s Credibility Is Melting

Here and abroad, Obama’s partners are concluding they cannot trust him.

By

DANIEL HENNINGER
Oct. 23, 2013 7:14 p.m. ET
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The collapse of ObamaCare is the tip of the iceberg for the magical Obama presidency.From the moment he emerged in the public eye with his 2004 speech at the Democratic Convention and through his astonishing defeat of the Clintons in 2008, Barack Obama’s calling card has been credibility. He speaks, and enough of the world believes to keep his presidency afloat. Or used to.All of a sudden, from Washington to Riyadh, Barack Obama’s credibility is melting.Amid the predictable collapse the past week of HealthCare.gov’s too-complex technology, not enough notice was given to Sen. Marco Rubio‘s statement that the chances for success on immigration reform are about dead. Why? Because, said Sen. Rubio, there is “a lack of trust” in the president’s commitments.

“This notion that they’re going to get in a room and negotiate a deal with the president on immigration,” Sen. Rubio said Sunday on Fox News, “is much more difficult to do” after the shutdown negotiations of the past three weeks.

Sen. Rubio said he and other reform participants, such as Idaho’s Rep. Raul Labrador, are afraid that if they cut an immigration deal with the White House—say, offering a path to citizenship in return for strong enforcement of any new law—Mr. Obama will desert them by reneging on the enforcement.

When belief in the average politician’s word diminishes, the political world marks him down and moves away. With the president of the United States, especially one in his second term, the costs of the credibility markdown become immeasurably greater. Ask the Saudis.

Last weekend the diplomatic world was agog at the refusal of Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah to accept a seat on the U.N. Security Council. Global disbelief gave way fast to clear understanding: The Saudis have decided that the United States is no longer a reliable partner in Middle Eastern affairs.

The Saudi king, who supported Syria’s anti-Assad rebels early, before Islamic jihadists polluted the coalition, watched Mr. Obama’s red line over Assad’s use of chemical weapons disappear into an about-face deal with Vladimir Putin. The next time King Abdullah looked up, Mr. Obama was hanging the Saudis out to dry yet again by phoning up Iran’s President Hasan Rouhani, Assad’s primary banker and armorer, to chase a deal on nuclear weapons. Within days, Saudi Arabia’s intelligence chief, Prince Bandar, let it be known that the Saudis intend to distance themselves from the U.S.

What is at issue here is not some sacred moral value, such as “In God We Trust.” Domestic politics or the affairs of nations are not an avocation for angels. But the coin of this imperfect realm is credibility. Sydney Greenstreet’s Kasper Gutman explained the terms of trade in “The Maltese Falcon”: “I must tell you what I know, but you won’t tell me what you know. That is hardly equitable, sir. I don’t think we can do business along those lines.”

Bluntly, Mr. Obama’s partners are concluding that they cannot do business with him. They don’t trust him. Whether it’s the Saudis, the Syrian rebels, the French, the Iraqis, the unpivoted Asians or the congressional Republicans, they’ve all had their fill of coming up on the short end with so mercurial a U.S. president. And when that happens, the world’s important business doesn’t get done. It sits in a dangerous and volatile vacuum.

The next major political event in Washington is the negotiation over spending, entitlements and taxes between House budget chairman Paul Ryan and his Senate partner, Patty Murray. The bad air over this effort is the same as that Marco Rubio says is choking immigration reform: the fear that Mr. Obama will urge the process forward in public and then blow up any Ryan-Murray agreement at the 11th hour with deal-killing demands for greater tax revenue.

Then there is Mr. Obama’s bond with the American people, which is diminishing with the failed rollout of the Affordable Care ActObamaCare is the central processing unit of the Obama presidency’s belief system. Now the believers are wondering why the administration suppressed knowledge of the huge program’s problems when hundreds of tech workers for the project had to know this mess would happen Oct. 1.

Rather than level with the public, the government’s most senior health-care official, Kathleen Sebelius, spent days spewing ludicrous and incredible happy talk about the failure, while refusing to provide basic information about its cause.

Voters don’t normally accord politicians unworldly levels of belief, but it has been Barack Obama’s gift to transform mere support into victorious credulousness. Now that is crumbling, at great cost. If here and abroad, politicians, the public and the press conclude that Mr. Obama can’t play it straight, his second-term accomplishments will lie only in doing business with the world’s most cynical, untrustworthy partners. The American people are the ones who will end up on the short end of those deals.

Saudi Arabia severs diplomatic ties with US over response to conflict in Syria

Saudi Arabia severs diplomatic ties with US over response to conflict in Syria

PUBLISHED: 19:27 EST, 22 October 2013 | UPDATED: 19:27 EST, 22 October 2013

Upset at President Barack Obama’s policies on Iran and Syria, members of Saudi Arabia’s ruling family are threatening a rift with the United States that could take the alliance between Washington and the kingdom to its lowest point in years.

Saudi Arabia’s intelligence chief is vowing that the kingdom will make a ‘major shift’ in relations with the United States to protest perceived American inaction over Syria’s civil war as well as recent U.S. overtures to Iran, a source close to Saudi policy said on Tuesday.

Prince Bandar bin Sultan told European diplomats that the United States had failed to act effectively against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, was growing closer to Tehran, and had failed to back Saudi support for Bahrain when it crushed an anti-government revolt in 2011, the source said.

'Major change': Prince Bandar Bin Sultan said the kingdom will make a ‘Major change’: Prince Bandar Bin Sultan said the kingdom will make a “major shift” in relations with the United States

‘The shift away from the U.S. is a major one,’ the source close to Saudi policy said. ‘Saudi doesn’t want to find itself any longer in a situation where it is dependent.’

It was not immediately clear whether the reported statements by Prince Bandar, who was the Saudi ambassador to Washington for 22 years, had the full backing of King Abdullah.

The growing breach between the United States and Saudi Arabia was also on display in Washington, where another senior Saudi prince criticized Obama’s Middle East policies, accusing him of ‘dithering’ on Syria and Israeli-Palestinian peace.

In unusually blunt public remarks, Prince Turki al-Faisal called Obama’s policies in Syria ‘lamentable’ and ridiculed a U.S.-Russian deal to eliminate Assad’s chemical weapons. He suggested it was a ruse to let Obama avoid military action in Syria.

‘The current charade of international control over Bashar’s chemical arsenal would be funny if it were not so blatantly perfidious. And designed not only to give Mr. Obama an opportunity to back down (from military strikes), but also to help Assad to butcher his people,’ said Prince Turki, a member of the Saudi royal family and former director of Saudi intelligence.

Inaction: The Saudis say they are getting upset by President Obama's inaction in dealing with the conflict in SyriaInaction: The Saudis say they are getting upset by President Obama’s inaction in dealing with the conflict in Syria

The United States and Saudi Arabia have been allies since the kingdom was declared in 1932, giving Riyadh a powerful military protector and Washington secure oil supplies.

The Saudi criticism came days after the 40th anniversary of the October 1973 Arab oil embargo imposed to punish the West for supporting Israel in the Yom Kippur war.

That was one of the low points in U.S.-Saudi ties, which were also badly shaken by the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. Most of the 9/11 hijackers were Saudi nationals.

Saudi Arabia gave a clear sign of its displeasure over Obama’s foreign policy last week when it rejected a coveted two-year term on the U.N. Security Council in a display of anger over the failure of the international community to end the war in Syria and act on other Middle East issues.

Prince Turki indicated that Saudi Arabia will not reverse that decision, which he said was a result of the Security Council’s failure to stop Assad and implement its own decision on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Picking sides: Russian President Vladimir Putin, seen here with bin Sultan, has sided with the Syrian government in the conflictPicking sides: Russian President Vladimir Putin, seen here with bin Sultan, has sided with the Syrian government in the conflict

‘There is nothing whimsical about the decision to forego membership of the Security Council. It is based on the ineffectual experience of that body,’ he said in a speech to the Washington-based National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations.

In London, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said he discussed Riyadh’s concerns when he met Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal in Paris on Monday.

Kerry said he told the Saudi minister no deal with Iran was better than a bad deal. ‘I have great confidence that the United States and Saudi Arabia will continue to be the close and important friends and allies that we have been,’ Kerry told reporters.

Prince Bandar is seen as a foreign policy hawk, especially on Iran. The Sunni Muslim kingdom’s rivalry with Shi’ite Iran, an ally of Syria, has amplified sectarian tensions across the Middle East.

A son of the late defense minister and crown prince, Prince Sultan, and a protégé of the late King Fahd, he fell from favor with King Abdullah after clashing on foreign policy in 2005.

But he was called in from the cold last year with a mandate to bring down Assad, diplomats in the Gulf say. Over the past year, he has led Saudi efforts to bring arms and other aid to Syrian rebels.

‘Prince Bandar told diplomats that he plans to limit interaction with the U.S.,’ the source close to Saudi policy said.

Secretary of State John Kerry says he's confident the U.S. will continue to have a good relationship with Saudi ArabiaSecretary of State John Kerry says he’s confident the U.S. will continue to have a good relationship with Saudi Arabia

This happens after the U.S. failed to take any effective action on Syria and Palestine. Relations with the U.S. have been deteriorating for a while, as Saudi feels that the U.S. is growing closer with Iran and the U.S. also failed to support Saudi during the Bahrain uprising,” the source said.

The source declined to provide more details of Bandar’s talks with the diplomats, which took place in the past few days.

But he suggested that the planned change in ties between the energy superpower and the United States would have wide-ranging consequences, including on arms purchases and oil sales.

Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest oil exporter, ploughs much of its earnings back into U.S. assets. Most of the Saudi central bank’s net foreign assets of $690 billion are thought to be denominated in dollars, much of them in U.S. Treasury bonds.

‘All options are on the table now, and for sure there will be some impact,’ the Saudi source said.

He said there would be no further coordination with the United States over the war in Syria, where the Saudis have armed and financed rebel groups fighting Assad.

The kingdom has informed the United States of its actions in Syria, and diplomats say it has respected U.S. requests not to supply the groups with advanced weaponry that the West fears could fall into the hands of al Qaeda-aligned groups.

Saudi intelligence chief Prince Turki Al Faisal also is outraged the international community has let the war continue in SyriaSaudi intelligence chief Prince Turki Al Faisal also is outraged the international community has let the war continue in Syria

Saudi anger boiled over after Washington refrained from military strikes in response to a poison gas attack in Damascus in August when Assad agreed to give up his chemical weapons arsenal.

Representative Chris Van Hollen, a member of the U.S. House of Representatives’ Democratic leadership, told Reuters’ Washington Summit on Tuesday that the Saudi moves were intended to pressure Obama to take action in Syria.

‘We know their game. They’re trying to send a signal that we should all get involved militarily in Syria, and I think that would be a big mistake to get in the middle of the Syrian civil war,’ Van Hollen said.

‘And the Saudis should start by stopping their funding of the al Qaeda-related groups in Syria. In addition to the fact that it’s a country that doesn’t allow women to drive,’ said Van Hollen, who is close to Obama on domestic issues in Congress but is less influential on foreign policy.

Saudi Arabia is concerned about signs of a tentative reconciliation between Washington and Tehran, something Riyadh fears may lead to a ‘grand bargain’ on the Iranian nuclear program that would leave Riyadh at a disadvantage.

Prince Turki expressed doubt that Obama would succeed in what he called an ‘open arms approach’ to Iran, which he accused of meddling in Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, Iraq and Bahrain.

‘We Saudis observe President Obama’s efforts in this regard. The road ahead is arduous,’ he said. ‘Whether (Iranian President Hassan) Rouhani will succeed in steering Iran toward sensible policies is already contested in Iran. The forces of darkness in Qom and Tehran are well entrenched.’

The U.N. Security Council has been paralyzed over the 31-month-old Syria conflict, with permanent members Russia and China repeatedly blocking measures to condemn Assad.

Saudi Arabia backs Assad’s mostly Sunni rebel foes. The Syrian leader, whose Alawite sect is derived from Shi’ite Islam, has support from Iran and the armed Lebanese Shi’ite movement Hezbollah. The Syrian leader denounces the insurgents as al Qaeda-linked groups backed by Sunni-ruled states.

In Bahrain, home of the U.S. Fifth Fleet, a simmering pro-democracy revolt by its Shi’ite majority has prompted calls by some in Washington for U.S. ships to be based elsewhere.

Many U.S. economic interests in Saudi Arabia involve government contracts in defense, other security sectors, health care, education, information technology and construction.

James Woods on Obama: He’s the ‘gift from hell’

James Woods on Obama: He’s the ‘gift from hell’

By Cheryl K. Chumley

The Washington Times

Thursday, September 12, 2013

  • James Woods copy

It’s a safe bet there’s no love lost between Hollywood actor James Woods and President Obama — the former has taken to Twitter several times over the last few months to trash the policies and politics of the latter.

The latest came this week, in response to a report from British press that revealed the National Security Agency commonly provides Israel with intelligence data — without first stripping out private and personal information on American citizens. The Guardian in London reported the item, the latest in its coverage of document leaks from Edward Snowden.

Mr. Woods unleashed his views of the matter — and of Mr. Obama’s role in allowing the practice to occur — on Twitter.

He wrote: “Report: Data on Americans shared with Israel … Obama: the gift from hell that keeps on giving.”

This is hardly the first unfavorable rating Mr. Woods has posted on his Twitter account about Mr. Obama. In July, the actor ranted over Mr. Obama’s insertion of his personal opinion into the George Zimmerman-Trayvon Martin trial, characterizing it as fueling racial tensions and wondering why the president would speak his mind about the death of the 17-year-old Trayvon but not worry so much about American’s soldiers and wounded warriors.

Follow us: @washtimes on Twitter

CBS Laments Pope’s ‘Religious Street Protest’ is Anti-Obama, Pro-Putin.

CBS Laments Pope’s ‘Religious Street Protest’ is Anti-Obama, Pro-Putin

By Matthew Balan | September 6, 2013 | 14:58

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On Friday’s CBS This Morning, Mark Phillips all but hinted that Pope Francis had “taken sides” with Russia’s Vladimir Putin and against President Obama in the international debate over military strikes in Syria. Phillips proposed that the Pope’s letter to Putin “must have been music to the Russian president’s ears.”

The journalist also turned to a “Vatican historian” who once publicly attacked Francis’ predecessor, Benedict XVI, as a “dictator”, and likened him to Islamists. He also labeled the Pope’s upcoming prayer and fasting vigil for peace in Syria a “religious street protest.”

Phillips led his report by noting that “popes have urged peace before. Remember, John Paul II was firmly against the Gulf War. This pope, Francis, is now actively arguing against military action against Syria. And the question is, does it matter?

The CBS correspondent continued by outlining Pope Francis’s recent actions on the Syria issue:

MARK PHILLIPS: This pope with the common touch has been uncommonly active, lobbying against an attack on Syria. He’s used his last two major public appearances in St. Peter’s Square to appeal to world leaders – and that primarily means President Obama – not to do it….Pope Francis has followed up his appeal by writing to Vladimir Putin as current president of the G-20. ‘Armed conflicts create profound divisions and deep wounds, which require many years to heal,’ he said. It must have been music to the Russian president’s ears.

The Pope may be taking a moral position, in his mind, but in arguing against military action, he has entered into the world of partisan international politics. He’s taken sides.

Phillips then played his clip from British author Michael Walsh. An on-screen graphic labeled Walsh a “Vatican historian“, but the journalist didn’t once mention that Walsh is a former Jesuit priest who maligned then-Pope Benedict XVI in the dissenting Catholic publication The Tablet in 2012:

The present Vatican regime, despite the obviously incompetent and dysfunctional administration, is a dictatorship….Whether the Pope [Benedict XVI] is a benevolent dictator or not rather depends on one’s point of view, but a dictator is what he is….And what do dictatorial regimes do when they are challenged? They lash out at all possible challengers to their power base, as we have seen across North Africa and the Middle East.

This isn’t the first time the CBS correspondent has given a platform to dissenters inside the Catholic Church. On the night of Pope Francis’ election, he singled out two radical feminists who were present in St. Peter’s Square, and let them spout in favor of women’s ordination and “LGBT issues [and] reproductive health care“.

Near the end of the segment, Phillips pointed out that the pontiff has “called for a mass prayer, fast, and peace vigil for St. Peter’s Square this Saturday“, but then referred to it as a “religious street protest“.

TEA PARTY GROUPS NATIONWIDE UNITE AGAINST AMERICAN ATTACK ON SYRIA

TEA PARTY GROUPS NATIONWIDE UNITE AGAINST AMERICAN ATTACK ON SYRIA

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Republican leaders in Washington, including SpeakerJohn Boehner (R-OH), House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), and Senators McCain (R-AZ)Graham (R-SC), and Corker (R-TN), are supporting President Obama’s call for an American attack on Syria, but Tea Party groups around the country are united in their opposition to such military action.

Tea Party activists appear to be virtually unanimous in their support for the position taken by Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), who said on Tuesday the United States “should not serve as Al-Qaeda’s Air Force.”

Lynn Moss, co-organizer of the Mid-South Tea Party in Memphis, Tennessee, expressed a view held by many Tea Party activists around the country. Moss told Breitbart News on Thursday, “both sides of the conflict in Syria are enemies of the United States. It would be foolish,” she said, “and self-defeating to involve ourselves in this already volatile situation.”

Joanne Jones, vice chairman of the Charleston Tea Party in South Carolina, told Breitbart News Thursday that “conservatives of many stripes are opposed to U.S. military intervention in Syria. Particularly in light of today’s account of al Qaeda-linked rebels murdering residents of a Christian village, it is becoming increasingly difficult to convince us that the United States would indeed be helping the ‘right’ rebels.”

Bobby Alexander, chairman of the Central Kentucky Tea Party Patriots, told Mother Jones, “[c]onservatives in Kentucky do not want us involved in Syria.” John Kemper of the United Kentucky Tea Party added, “[t]he things I’m seeing and emails I’m getting from folks around the state, they’re not in favor of [an American attack on Syria.]”

Mark Kevin Lloyd, a Tea Party activist in Virginia, told Breitbart News that “the Obama administration and some in the Republican leadership seems overly concerned about the president’s credibility in the eyes of the world. Both President Obama and Speaker Boehner need to understand they each have the same credibility problems in the eyes of the American people.

“How can the president be so sure of the situation in Syria, and so clueless about Benghazi? Too many questions, not nearly enough answers.”

Bruce Carroll, chairman of Carolina Conservatives United, told Breitbart News, “we share the humanitarian concern for the Syrian people who have been killed and injured by conventional weapons and chemical weapons and the millions of refugees that are suffering due to that nation’s two-year civil war.

For Carroll, though, such concerns do not justify American intervention. “We strongly believe the situation in Syria will not improve, and could well deteriorate, due to American military involvement,” he said. “Additionally, we do not believe President Obama has adequately made the case that any national security interests are at stake, a minimum requirement for military actions abroad.”

Mark West, founder of the Chattanooga Tea Party in Tennessee told Breitbart News Thursday: “while Americans have come to expect flawed and disastrous foreign policy decisions from the Obama administration, what is alarming is the foolish part that Republicans are playing in embracing and facilitating Obama’s latest plan to attack Syria.”

According to West, “what should be painfully obvious to any alert American is that Obama’s plan (and now his Republican allies’) to launch “limited” attacks into a highly volatile war zone has the strong likelihood of escalating into a broader and protracted war. And if this occurs, Tennesseans will remember the fateful role that Senator Corker and other Republicans played in endorsing another one of Obama’s helter-skelter foreign policy initiatives.”

Though President Obama maintains he does not need Congressional authorization to conduct military action against Syria, he has nonetheless agreed to ask for Congressional support, without promising that he will be bound by votes taken in the House and Senate on the issue. On Wednesday, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted 10 to 7 to support President Obama’s call for an American air strike on Syria. Votes in the full Senate as well as in the House are expected to take place soon.

With those important votes looming, members of the Senate and the House are hearing from their constituents, the vast majority of whom oppose such action, according to recent polls. The virtually unanimous sentiment of Tea Party activists appears to be leading public opinion throughout the country in its opposition to American military attacks on Syria.