Modern politics continued its progressive downward spiral in relevance last night. We were treated with the bizarre circumstance of an American President travelling half way around the world to give a speech in the middle of an Afghan night to an empty room , fronting his only attendants, some lonely Humvees, extolling his leadership in achieving the triumphant “conclusion” of the war on terror. And then he flew home. This was to be the pinnacle of a carefully choreographed week of focus on the Obama commander in chief review. First, the intense focus on Obama the Warrior, bravely leading a decision to send special forces into Pakistan against Osama Bin Laden, and contrasting it to the supposed hesitation of a President Romney facing the same odds. Then, Obama the Avenger, with his army of drone assassins seeking out the Al Qaeda fugitives and annihilating them in their hideaways. Finally Obama the Peacemaker, closing out conflict in Iraq, and the Afghanistan, and standing before the cameras of an empty room declaring victory and closure.
The current president certainly didn’t invent triumphalism. It was not so long ago that a President Bush found himself landing a fighter on an aircraft carrier, standing before a Mission Accomplished sign and prematurely declaring the end of hostilities. But there is a uniquely narcissistic character to this President’s framing of himself as the indispensable cog that drives the successes and fashions a compliant world. It is disturbing and unseemly that the President and Vice President celebrate the “kills” as if they are bounty hunters or democracy’s enforcers. First, the elimination of Bin Laden, then the “taking out” of Awlaki in Yemen, and now the the President bragging about the erasing of “over 20 of the top 30 Al Qaeda leadership”, continuing today with the evaporation of 15 nameless Al Qaeda militants in the Yemeni desert.
What is the end game of this triumphalism? When did the policies and international interests of the United States becoming inextricably linked to a hit-man superhero and a scorecard of results? History is unfortunately littered with examples of premature crowing and assertions of personal indispensability. These examples have more often than not ended in untoward ends for both triumphalist and the cause they so blatantly declared superior. The American model of being about the philosophy not the individual is being subsumed by a new kind of politics more suited for the propagandistic bellows of a 20th century dictator, and its bound to end ignominiously. Being the President who has collected the most scalps is unlikely to be a respected leader among those who still have their hair.
We are left with the scenario of an awkward gladhanding speech to an empty room have way around the world designed to impress a nation back home. It does nothing for me, and I suspect intimidates no one who is in this President’s crosshairs. Triumphalism. Profligate spending. No budget in three years, and no budget in sight. Extra-constitutional judicial leanings. A country in economic wilderness. The driving force of re-election – I may have accomplished little, but I am great nonetheless.
Put it all together, consider the delusion of the man and his conceptualizations of the American process and I remain convinced. Worst. President. Ever.