It's a comparison too obvious to pass up. We all remember the late comedian Rodney Dangerfield, best known for exclaiming, "I get no respect," as he tugged at his collar and bulged his eyes to a laughing audience. You know things are, as Rodney would say, "tough" if his comedy has entered a discussion of foreign policy.
Over the past few weeks, columnists and commentators have struggled to comprehend President Obama's reaction to the situation in Ukraine as well as the more recent "defection" of Crimea into the Russian camp. But the truth is that no one can make any sense of this administration's foreign policy, because, basically, it has no foreign policy. And it has caused President Obama to appear as all too much like the famed comedian, left to shrugging his shoulders over world events.
Consider the fact that Syria has been a simmering caldron for several years. And, yes, most Americans did not want to see military intervention in that nation and likely still don't support such a move. But in the middle of a potentially substantial change in policy and political alignment by the world's other great superpower, the Obama administration chooses now as the appropriate time to kick Syria's diplomatic corps out of the country. All of this as a "symbolic" gesture on the third anniversary of revolt in that nation.
So far, about all the president has done in his years in office has been symbolic. Yes, he hunted down Bin Laden, but that was after years of pursuit by the U.S. To be fair, it shocked some observers that the president would have even participated in the effort, but he did, and in so doing, "symbolically" demonstrated that he could be "tough."
But, to steal from Rodney, if you look up the word "tough" in the dictionary, all you see is a picture of Vladimir Putin. Now that's one tough guy. And while he has promised to limit his nation's expansion to Crimea, he and his minions give every indication that they are gearing up for something much more ambitious.
With an American president who is a world famous "community organizer" obsessed with wealth inequality and appealing to an increasingly extreme far left, it probably isn't difficult for Putin, with his KGB background, to have profiled Obama as a weakling from the moment he took office.
And certainly the former KGB psychologists aren't having much difficulty determining that a Secretary of State who, years earlier, turned in his medals and protested a war might not be the toughest of adversaries.
It doesn't take a genius to see where this all ends up. The U.S. president proposes a budget that cuts the military. The Russian leader takes a small piece of territory that once was a part of the former Soviet Union. The U.S. response is to freeze assets that don't really impact Russia.
Then to add "muscle" to its position, the administration supports tossing Russia out of its equivalent of the exclusive "Bushwood Country Club" in Dangerfield's iconic move "Caddyshack," the G-8 (soon to become the G-7). Putin most likely responds, as did Dangerfield's character in the movie, by exclaiming as he is threatened with expulsion from the club that "the only reason I'm here is because I might buy it."
Meanwhile, other small portions of the old Soviet empire start to claim they too want to join Russia. Russia begins to flex its muscle in other ways, such as in a clearly authorized comment by that nation's version of an American network news anchor basically reminding viewers that only Russia could reduce the U.S. to ashes with a launch of nuclear weapons.
Before you know it, Russia and the "West" no longer "trust" each other. Relations get cold. Does that sound familiar?
We will know we are headed back to an early "Cold War" when we start hearing the U.S. and its allies talking in terms of "containing" or "containment."
This White House has played on words, parsed statements, shaken fists, stomped its feet and done everything it could possibly do for almost six years in reaction to potential enemies abroad. All as a ruse for its lack of backbone.
Luckily for Obama, one Dangerfield joke might not apply to him or his administration. It goes like this: "I get no respect. The way my luck is running, if I were a politician, I'd be honest."