Robert Kennedy in a rush to get assassination plots going against Fidel Castro urged William Harvey to "get things cookin' like 007." This seems to be the philosophy of President Barack Obama while he runs his own version of Operation Mongoose in the Middle East. The recent attacks on two Al-Qaeda leaders have been heralded as once again proof that Obama is serious about the War on Terror.
Although this cloak and dagger may be alluring to the press, it does little for core supporters of the president. Instead of positive economic steps, they are given a militarized version of bread and circuses. Thrills a plenty courtesy of drone missile attacks, which also serve to remind a doubting public that Obama can get things done. Whether or not these are the key priorities to "get done" is scarcely addressed by the White House.
Increasingly, some Obama boosters are falling back on an old Democratic formula of comparing all reform packages as a crusade. William James' "moral equivalent of war" is a recipe for any social crisis. Chris Matthews touts the peace corps, Rachel Maddow the works progress administration, all hail the military as a model for co-operation. David Gergen sees returning veterans as key for American renewal. People of action unbothered by the messy formulas of democracy, which are lobbies and Congress. If they are lukewarm on Obama, they long for the dulcet tones of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.
But the chief pushers of trying to unite the country through a foreign enemy is the White House. No less than for Woodrow Wilson, it is an "irony of history" for Obama that international affairs has come to dominate his attention. And he seems to eagerly abandon a domestic theme in exchange for action - any action on the many battlefronts. His brief push on "jobs" seem a distraction from his chief interest. To paraphrase Lyndon Johnson the "woman" Obama loves is not domestic policy but foreign affairs. Unemployment, deficits and tumbling markets are unwelcome distractions to truimphalism.
But these successes are little comfort to a public worried about their futures. Obama lectures his supporters to take off their "bedroom slippers" and put their boots on. But where pray are we marching, toward an agenda that stresses foreign conflicts or nonexistent green jobs. One has to wish that Obama does not start lecturing the public on their own inadequacy. This is usually the final knell of a political movement. Jimmy Carter did it in 1979 and the American people showed him the door in 1980.
Afterall to summon the trumpet with no direction is to court disaster. John Adams, in 1798, afixed a sword by his side, threatened the French, passed the Alien and Sedition Acts and then disappointed some by not crossing the rubicon. Jimmy Carter, in 1978, rattled a saber but did not draw it, and the Iranian regime got the better of him. Both Adams and Carter exploited those issues for domestic advantage but had no endgame militarily. Both were rebuffed for re-election.
For Obama to succeed is to push domestic reform with the same passion, he has to this point foreign policy. To become a scold to his faithful supporters is not where to start. Defining leadership simply as pretending to be the smartest man in the room is no alternative. Some time a good leader is an artful follower. It is now the hour to disengage from those elements that will not shed a tear at his defeat and will only begin their new courtship of the latest temporary occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.