There is a tendency for newly installed presidents, like adolescents suddenly liberated from adult supervision, to do the exact opposite of what their predecessors did. Presidents of both parties indulge in this behavior, though Democrats who campaign as candidates of hope and change are more likely to do so.
Some of this is a legitimate response to the political process: Voters tend to elect presidents who seem to possess qualities and views they thought lacking in their predecessors. But some of it, and especially in the case of Barack Obama, seems to come from an adolescent-like confidence that everything done by those who came before is (insert your own generation's expletive here).
We have seen this spectacularly in the dozen days since the June 12 Iranian election. Back in July 2007, Obama said that he would meet with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and other tyrants without preconditions. Grownup squares like George W. Bush wouldn't talk to these guys, so as the avatar of the generation of hope and change, Obama would. Obama figured he was cool enough to get the mullahs to agree to renounce nuclear weapons and all that hate stuff.
Obama has held to this ever since. Before June 12, he said he would give the Iranian leaders till the end of the year to be enchanted. When millions of Iranians started demonstrating in the streets, denouncing the obvious election fraud and in some cases calling for an end to the regime, his initial responses verged on stony indifference.
He expressed "deep concern" but said he didn't want to "meddle." He issued a statement on June 20 calling on the Iranian government "to stop all violent and unjust actions." Finally, in a hastily called news conference Tuesday, he for the first time uttered the verb "condemn" and said he was moved by the video of YouTube martyr Neda Soltan being shot down by the mullahs' gunmen.
But he clearly hasn't abandoned his policy of seeking the good opinion of tyrants. He didn't even rescind the State Department's invitations of Iranian diplomats to attend U.S. embassy Fourth of July celebrations (halal hot dogs, anyone?). If Bush refused to entertain the emissaries of the Iranian theocrats, it must be right to do the opposite. But even anonymous State Department officials are saying that the chances are dismal for fruitful negotiations with Ahmadinejad or the tyrant Obama insists on calling "the Supreme Leader" by Obama's deadline -- something that seemed obvious to me and many others well before June 12.
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