Paul Greenberg

As for Part B, the one about his helping shape politicians' thoughts, well, that's less than likely. Mr. Trump is scarcely what the PR people call, in their unfortunate way with words, a Thought Leader.

Besides, the idea of "politicians' thoughts" verges on the oxymoronic. Politicians may have instincts, which is why they're called political animals, and they certainly have rationalizations aplenty, but as for any cognitive pattern that might justifiably be called thoughts, aside from plans to win election or re-election, surely it is the rare politician who actually thinks. They may have speeches, they may have projects, they may have foundations, but thoughts? Not likely.

Even rarer is the brave soul in politics who dares offer an unpopular opinion. Which is why that kind of politician should be prized, encouraged and applauded. Agree or disagree with his thoughts. At least he has some, as distinguished from automatic echoes of public opinion polls.

In general a politician may be defined as someone who'll tell you what he thinks as soon as he knows what you want to hear. This isn't so much thought as a political reflex.

Surely there are some thinkers in American politics even this long after Robert A. Taft, Scoop Jackson and Pat Moynihan have left the scene. Joe Lieberman, maybe? Any other nominations? I'd love to hear them. Just to give me hope.

Standing in Westminster Hall, Barack Obama reverted to the Sen. Obama who opposed the use of force to change dictatorial regimes in places like Iraq and Afghanistan. That was before, as president, he ordered a surge in American forces in Afghanistan -- and backed up NATO's (not very effective) campaign in Libya, too.

Now, on the eve of his visit to continental Europe, he was back with this warning: "Ultimately, freedom must be won by the people themselves, not imposed from without."

I try to keep up, but instead I keep getting dizzy. Our ambiguous president keeps doubling back on himself. The setting for his latest pronouncement only added to its irony. How does he think Europe was ultimately liberated from Nazi tyranny if not by the use of force imposed from without, largely by the United States of America?

Democracy was even imposed on the Germans themselves, for which most are surely grateful by now.

Maybe he's "leading from behind" again. Far behind. Or maybe, in the way of politicians, he was speaking rather than thinking.

Who knows?

Whatever the explanation, Mr. Obama seems blithely unaware of the contradictions inherent in his opposite-but-equal statements. When it comes to foreign policy, our president keeps debating himself. Here's hoping that one day he'll achieve consensus.


Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.