Jonah Goldberg

Does the president think the world is a TV show?

One of the things you learn watching television as a kid is that the hero wins. No matter how dire things look, the star is going to be OK. MacGyver always defuses the bomb with some saltwater taffy before the timer reaches zero. There was no way Fonzie was going to mess up his water-ski jump and get devoured by sharks.

Life doesn't actually work like that. That's one reason HBO's "Game of Thrones" is so compelling. Despite being set in an absurd fantasy world of giants, dragons and ice zombies, it's more realistic than a lot of dramas set in a more plausible universe in at least one regard. Heroes die. The good guys get beaten by more committed and ruthless bad guys. No one is safe, nothing is guaranteed. There is no iron law of the universe that says good will ultimately triumph.

President Obama often says otherwise.

In his mostly admirable remarks about the beheading of American journalist James Foley by the jihadists of the so-called "Islamic State," Obama returned to two of his favorite rhetorical themes: 1) the idea that in the end the good guys win simply because they are good, and 2) that world opinion is a wellspring of great moral authority.

Obama invokes the "right side of history" constantly, not only as if such a thing exists but that he knows what it is and actually speaks for it as well. Perhaps his favorite quote comes from Martin Luther King Jr.: "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice."

As for world opinion, particularly in the form of that global shmoo the "international community," there's apparently nothing it can't do. It is the secret to "leading from behind." Behind what, you ask? The international community. What is the international community? The thing we're leading from behind. From Russia to Syria, Iran to North Korea, the president is constantly calling on the international community to do something he is unwilling to do. When Russia was carving Crimea away from Ukraine, Obama vowed that "the United States will stand with the international community in affirming that there will be costs for any military intervention in Ukraine." After pro-Russian forces shot down a civilian plane over Ukraine and as Russia lined troops for a possible invasion, Obama sternly warned that Russia "will only further isolate itself from the international community."

Jonah Goldberg

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