Bill McGurn writes:
For a man whose whole appeal has been wrapped in powerful imagery, President Obama appears strikingly obtuse about the symbolism of his own actions: e.g., squeezing in a condemnation of Iran before a round of golf. With every statement not backed up by action, with every refusal to meet a leader such as the Dalai Lama, with every handshake for a Chavez, Mr. Obama is defining himself to foreign leaders who are sizing him up and have only one question in mind: How much can we get away with?
McGurn argues that Obama would do well to take a break from his “not George W. Bush” approach to everything and back up his new rhetoric with some minimal action. He might, for example, actually meet with some dissidents as Bush did:
George W. Bush also made it a point to meet with dissidents and signal which side America was on. He met with a defector who spent 10 years in the North Korean gulag. He met with persecuted Chinese Christians, marked the 20th anniversary of a famous pro-democracy uprising in Burma by meeting with Burmese dissidents in Thailand, and awarded the Medal of Freedom to a jailed Cuban political prisoner. In 2007, he even spoke to a whole conference of dissidents in Prague organized by another alumnus of the Soviet prison system: Natan Sharansky.
Obama also might fund the Iranian dissidents, sign onto legislation to help the democracy advocates evade censorship, get working on those “crippling” sanctions, and make clear we’re done engaging a regime that lacks the support of its people. But it is far from clear that Obama means to do more than sprinkle in some complimentary words for those whom he has done nothing to aid and much to undercut since the June 12 election. Absent some concrete actions, those words lack meaning and sincerity.