Jonah Goldberg

In April, at a news conference following a meeting of the Organization of American States, Obama proclaimed, "What we showed here is that we can make progress when we're willing to break free from some of the stale debates and old ideologies that have dominated and distorted the debate in this hemisphere for far too long." Hillary Clinton was more pithy: "Let's put ideology aside," the secretary of state said. "That is so yesterday." It's worth recalling that those old ideological debates often involved America championing democracy against those who pushed for socialism. One wonders which ideological stance Obama thinks is stale.

Obama supporter and Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne writes that the Obama Doctrine involves restoring America's alliances and working with the international community so we can all do great things together. That's why Obama and Hillary Clinton have been so eager to apologize for America around the globe. One problem with such an approach is that it -- so far at least -- buys us nothing save the appearance of weakness. Another problem is that quite often, the international community is wrong.

Hence, according to the Obama administration, it's foolishly ideological to resist the United Nation's accommodation of tyrants and fanatics, while it is "pragmatic" to placate human rights abusers. It is ideological to show disdain for Venezuela's would-be dictator Hugo Chavez; it is "pragmatic" to stamp as "democratic" his effort to overthrow term limits. It is ideological to sustain sanctions against Burma and Sudan; it's pragmatic to revisit them, even if it disheartens human rights activists across the ideological spectrum. American exceptionalism is ideological, while seeing America as just another nation is realistic.

The past four weeks show how ideological Obama's un-ideological view really is. In response to the revolutionary protests in Iran, Obama initially favored stability and preserving the fantasy of negotiations with the Iranian clerical junta. Not "meddling" was his top priority. Over time, the rhetoric improved, but the policy remained just as cynical.

Then, events in Honduras revealed that Obama really has no problem with meddling when a left-wing agenda is advanced. Manuel Zelaya, the president of Honduras and a Hugo Chavez wannabe, illegally defied the Honduran Congress, the Supreme Court and the Constitution in an attempt to repeal term limits (which help sustain democracy in Central America by preventing presidents-for-life). The Supreme Court ordered the military to remove Zelaya from office and expel him from the country. A member of Zelaya's own party replaced him, and elections were announced. But suddenly, Obama -- taking much the same position as Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez -- thought America should join the coalition of the meddlers demanding Zelaya's return to power. In Iran, Obama was terrified to do anything that might lead to a coup to bring about democracy. In Honduras, Obama was chagrined to let stand a coup that preserved democracy.

It sure seems like Obama has an ideological problem with democracy.


Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the forthcoming book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
 
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