Michael Barone

Kicking the can down the road. That's been the Obama administration's response on issues from Iran's nuclear weapons program to America's entitlement systems.

Start with Iran. In a statement in the Oval Office before his meeting with President Obama on Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu noted that Obama had "reiterated yesterday" the principle that "when it comes to Israel's security, Israel has the right, the sovereign right, to make its own decisions."

That evening, speaking to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, Netanyahu said: "Israel has waited patiently for the international community to resolve this issue. We've waited for diplomacy to work. We've waited for sanctions to work. None of us can afford to wait much longer.

"As Prime Minister of Israel, I will never let my people live in the shadow of annihilation."

In response to Netanyahu and in his own speech to AIPAC, Obama declared that the United States would not allow Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon. He explicitly ruled out a policy of "containment."

But there clearly is a difference between the two leaders. Obama has been talking about preventing Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. Netanyahu has been talking about preventing Iran from getting a nuclear weapons capability.

I draw the conclusion that Netanyahu will very soon order an Israeli attack on Iran's nuclear weapons facilities. Meanwhile, Obama is kicking the can down the road, announcing Tuesday that the United States will participate in further negotiations with Iran.

It cannot be known with certainty that these negotiations will fail, as earlier negotiations have. Obama is correct in saying that we are in the process of imposing much tougher sanctions that are doing real damage to Iran's economy.

But he doesn't mention that those sanctions were produced by a coalition of Republicans and Democrats in Congress, over the opposition of the administration. A coalition that was alarmed by Obama's policy of, well, kicking the can down the road.

So the result is likely to be an Israeli attack that would not be as militarily effective as an American attack would be, but that could trigger responses just as negative.

The time when Iran gets a nuclear weapons capability seems close at hand, but the time when America's entitlement programs -- Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid -- become unaffordable is further in the future.

But we've already passed the red line when the payroll tax no longer produces enough cash to pay for Social Security benefits. And Obamacare, by expanding Medicaid, is exacerbating the problem.


Michael Barone

Michael Barone, senior political analyst for The Washington Examiner (www.washingtonexaminer.com), is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a Fox News Channel contributor and a co-author of The Almanac of American Politics. To find out more about Michael Barone, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com. COPYRIGHT 2011 THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER. DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM