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Obama’s Interpersonal Diplomacy Crisis

You have to give Barack Obama credit for one thing. He practices what he preaches. He has said he wants America to engage in unqualified talks with her enemies. Can there now be any doubt that Jeremiah Wright, the man Barack Obama has been talking to for twenty years, is his enemy?

At yesterday’s National Press Club event, the spiritual mentor whom Obama refused to renounce unleashed a stream of ugly paranoia that could only do damage to Obama’s bid for the presidency. What we’re seeing play out are the disastrous results of Obama’s group-hug diplomacy when applied to the realm of the interpersonal.

In February, Obama said, “If we think that meeting with the president is a privilege that has to be earned, I think that reinforces the sense that we stand above the rest of the world at this point in time.” But friendship is a privilege and does have to be earned. Obama’s very problem is that, because he’s extended his unqualified friendship to a vitriolic kook like Wright, people are finding it hard to see how he “stands above” his ex-pastor. If Obama is truly such a fan of equivalence, he should be thrilled to learn that he’s increasingly seen as being no better than Jeremiah Wright. Parity achieved!

A modern liberal can renounce no one, because everyone’s grievance deserves equal sympathy and every viewpoint is valid. If this is how it works out when Obama has to deal with the self-serving motives of one unhinged man, consider the implications when this policy is applied globally. Obama sits down with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, as he’s already said he hopes to do. He listens to the Iranian president’s “valid” points: Israel has the bomb, Iran just wants nuclear energy, the U.S. is killing Shiites in a neighboring country, etc. Obama flies back to the U.S. and makes a beautiful and exhaustive speech about the long and troubled history of U.S.-Iran relations. He disagrees with many things the Iranian president has said, but he can no sooner sever ties with him than he could refuse to engage with the Israeli government that continues to allow the building of settlements in occupied Palestine.

The speech is an international hit, a landmark moment in geopolitical candor. Emboldened and under the protective umbrella of world sympathy, Ahmadinejad and the mullahs ratchet up the hegemonic machinery and the Armageddon talk. Within a year they brazenly test their first nuke. Obama makes a shorter, slightly less beautiful speech about the hurdles of diplomacy, Iran is off the hook, and the next proto-nuclear state gets to work.

In the Wright affair we see a microcosmic portrayal of America’s president in the role of world dupe. The most worrisome thing about the whole episode is not that Obama may share Wright’s bizarre convictions. It’s that the code of modern liberalism has allowed someone a calendar page away from being the Democratic presidential nominee to be thoroughly manipulated by a third-rate huckster.


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