This White House, like its predecessors, can take some comfort in the fact that the Middle East has been breaking the hearts of diplomats and foreign politicians for at least 2,000 years. Of course, some centuries have been worse than others (Pontius Pilate had a particularly difficult innings). But in modern times, the American voting public has become accustomed to seeing regular news from the Middle East feature wars, terrorism, mayhem, religious fanaticism and failed peace initiatives.
As a result, few presidents pay much of a price at election time for failing to deliver peace or other conspicuous diplomatic successes from that cradle of civilization and birthplace of the three great religions of the Book. I am certainly not prepared to predict that President Obama will lose many votes in 2012 based on his Middle East policy.
And yet, events of recent weeks are beginning to suggest a singular moment of U.S. policy ineffectiveness -- even ineptness. Two months ago, the administration's dithering about, and then undermining of, Egyptian President Mubarak's government outraged both Saudi Arabia and the kids on the street during the uprising.
That "democratic revolution," as the administration persistently called it, seems to have settled down into an ugly accord between the Army-run government, the Muslim Brotherhood and the fanatical salafists -- which the new regime has been releasing from the prisons into which Mubarak very usefully had sent those dreadful men. Killing Coptic Christians, attacking women on the street for non-Muslim garb and other pre-Mubarak attitudes are thus now back in vogue in "democratic" Egypt.
The administration's inconsistent policies in, inter alia, Tunisia, Egypt, Syria, Libya, Lebanon, Iran and Yemen continue to baffle and confuse the world.
Two weeks ago, the administration was "surprised" at the Egyptian-brokered accord between the terrorist Hamas and the West Bank Fatah Palestinian factions -- ending even a theoretical chance of Israeli/Palestinian negotiations.
Then last week -- with King Abdullah of Jordan and Israeli Prime Minster Binyamin Netanyahu scheduled to be in Washington this week for separate, major discussions with the president (and Netanyahu to address a joint session of Congress), the president's Middle East peace envoy, George Mitchell, announced he was summarily quitting.
The day before Mitchell's public resignation, the White House announced that the president would be giving, this Thursday, his second major outreach speech to "the Muslim world" (an inapt, monolithic term for a vastly variegated fifth of mankind).
Blankley, who had been suffering from stomach cancer, died Saturday night at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, his wife, Lynda Davis, said Sunday.
In his long career as a political operative and pundit, his most visible role was as a spokesman for and adviser to Gingrich from 1990 to 1997. Gingrich became House Speaker when Republicans took control of the U.S. House of Representatives following the 1994 midterm elections.