The reliably liberal New Yorker magazine isn’t usually in the habit of presenting gifts to the Republican Party, but it has just published three little words that may prove central to the GOP effort to defeat President Obama next year. Those words are “leading from behind,” and they appear at the end of a Ryan Lizza article on Obama’s foreign policy.
Lizza didn’t coin the phrase. “Leading from behind” is a direct quote from of “one of [Obama's] advisers,” who is describing his boss’ policy on Libya. That same adviser goes on to say that the effort to lead from behind is “so at odds with the John Wayne expectation for what America is in the world. But it’s necessary for shepherding us through this phase.”
And there you have it: the 2012 campaign against Obama’s foreign policy in a nutshell. By the time Election Day rolls around, if the GOP knows what’s good for it, the phrase “leading from behind” will be the “yes, we can” of 2012.
The reason the phrase is so devastating is that “leading from behind” wasn’t intended as criticism but rather as a sympathetic, even proud, defense of the administration’s approach and goals.
Lizza describes it thus: “It’s a different definition of leadership than America is known for, and it comes from two unspoken beliefs: that the relative power of the US is declining, as rivals like China rise, and that the US is reviled in many parts of the world.“
Wow. EU-style “soft power” in all its spineless glory. It’s the perfect implementation of a worldview that sees American power as the problem and seeks its deliberate weakening. Only you don’t let on that that’s your plan; rather, you couch it in terms of “inevitable decline” versus the latest threat(1) and the need to make ourselves more liked in the international community (all bow).
The article is right: if Republicans don’t use this like a club to whack Obama at every opportunity in the coming campaign, they don’t deserve to win.
LINKS: A British view — Obama looks “weak and confused.”
(1)Now it’s China. Remember the 1980s when Japan was going to eat our lunch?
(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)