Commentary Magazine


Contentions

Just Say No

I guess he “screwed up” again:

The Obama administration asked retired Marine Gen. Anthony Zinni to be U.S. ambassador to Iraq but abruptly withdrew the appointment without explanation, Gen. Zinni said Tuesday.

Gen. Zinni, a former commander of Central Command, told The Washington Times that he had been offered the job by the White House national security adviser, retired Marine Gen. James Jones, two weeks ago and that Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton confirmed the offer on Jan. 26.

“I started making arrangements,” Gen. Zinni said, but became concerned because he heard nothing further from the State Department or White House. He called Gen. Jones Monday night and was told that Christopher Hill, the outgoing assistant secretary of State for East Asia, was getting the job.

Gen. Zinni said no explanation was given. “That kind of bothered me,” he said. “I was told that I had it.”

There is more at issue here than bureaucratic incompetence: Barack Obama can’t give a thumbs down. His record of letting the rejection of intimates and associates simply happen, without any indication of his own volition is spotless. During the campaign, Jeremiah Wright essentially broke up with him and Bill Ayers took himself out of Obama’s sphere. After getting elected, then President-elect Obama somehow told the president of Poland that the U.S. both would and would not erect a desired missile defense shield in Eastern Europe. He refused to reject Timothy Geithner despite having obvious grounds; he stood by Tom Daschle and waited for the New York Times to force him down.

Even his hailed decisions are, in their fine print, merely delays of decisions. He is not substantively closing a detainee facility, but moving one. He is not exactly ending harsh interrogations and rendition, but assigning other people to think about ending them. He let Democrats on Capitol Hill have a free-for-all on the stimulus bill. If the bill is rejected, it won’t be rejected by him.

This is the bizarre reality of that famous presidential temperament. Barack Obama is not so much even-tempered as he is irresolute.