Monday, April 20, 2009

The Opinion of Those Who Do Count

They say the first hundred days of a President are indicative of whether he will or will not succeed in the Office of the Presidency.  Well, I am sure that there are naysayers to this barometer; I personally have no way of interpreting the next four years of a President’s tenure in office by his first one hundred days, but I can say that I like the methods utilized by this President most recently in Europe and again here in the American hemisphere more than I did those of the other President.

We can all remember with disdain the swagger of the ‘Texan’ born in Massachusetts.  We can easily recall the President that always walked around like he had two six guns strapped to his sides.  We remember these things because other world leaders remember them as well and they are on record for not liking it very well.  Some even challenged his swagger and won in a face down – the tiny Republic of Georgia can tell you very well.

The United States ‘was’ always known before the tenure of the forty-third President for its willingness to negotiate from a point of strength, its intense desire to use force only as a last result that is until 2003.  Surely we were attacked and mortally wounded on September 11th, 2001 and we did something about it – sort of, but what followed gave America a new dogma that did not fit with the dogma of the previous two centuries.  We became warmongers and those launching us onto this path showed little insight.

Most recently, we have had critics of this President, chiefly among the opposition party; voicing their opinions in the negative against the attempts by this President to reverse the image that was held about the United States over the past eight years.


"Meanwhile, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich charged Monday that Obama's cordial greeting with Chavez sent a poor message to enemies of America by giving legitimacy and credibility to the fiery Venezuelan leader.  "What I find distressing, is that the administration opposes opening up oil exploration," but yet Obama "bowed to the king of Saudi Arabia" and now has reached out to Chavez, Gingrich said on NBC's "Today" show.  "Cuba releases zero prisoners," he said, "yet we make nice with Cuba. I'm for doing things methodically and calmly ... things that will work, but I'm not for deluding myself about smiles and words."


I am trying to make the connection here… help me if you can?  This President’s bow to the Saudi King was not normal posture, but surely did not denote the belittlement of the Office of the President anymore than the previous President’s offer of twenty million dollars to the richest producer of oil during a time when that United States badly needed a break in the price of oil per barrel.  That President promised American businessmen that he would go to Saudi Arabia and get the Saudis to increase their production of oil – they didn’t, and the President came away twenty million less and totally belittled by the incident.  

And, of course, we all remember the incidents leading up to the United Nations confrontation between Chavez and Bush… there can be no doubt that Presidente Chavez had stoked this confrontation with then President Bush and the United States for personal reasons, but as the saying goes, it takes two to tango.  More to the point, Bush could have been the bigger man by giving Chavez a smile and a handshake which would have defused the entire matter – just as Obama did at the Summit of the Americas, instead, he turned his back and ignored Chavez - solid diplomacy if I ever saw it.  Smile and the world smiles with you is what Obama accomplished with his greeting to Chavez.


America’s policy toward Cuba has been in existence since the failed invasion of Cuba some fifty years ago.  It has changed nothing, yet Mr. Gingrich decries the current administration for opening the rusty door of old dead diplomacy and shedding some new optimism on Cuban-American relations.  The Cuban government is more receptive now to the idea of solid relations with the United States than ever before – Obama's overture to the Republic of Cuba was received overwhelmingly by the other members of the OAS.  Again, consensus of opinion overrules in diplomatic situations.  Whether the Cuban leaders will reciprocate remains to be seen; however, by virtue of its statue, America gains much from being the first to extend the hand of friendship.


Mr. Gingrich says “I'm for doing things methodically and calmly ... things that will work, but I'm not for deluding myself about smiles and words”, but we never saw much of this in the way things were done when Mr. Gingrich and his fellow Americans were in a position to do so.  In fact, America became known for its willingness to disrespect its counterparts around the world with this phrase… “If you are not with us, then you are against us”.


The ability to get to a point of consensus with those considered to be your enemy is a difficult task, one that requires the use of every method or means at your disposal.  To be respectful of another is not demeaning.  Extending your hand in genuine friendship is not belittlement of yourself.  Flashing a smile with each person that you greet is an ice-breaker, and Obama uses all of these tactics well.  I commend you Mr. President for your ability to show America’s strength by flexing the muscles we use to make a smile with each person that you greet.


In a democracy, silence is not golden; it is condonance in the face of injustices; it is fear, where the thought of reprisal fosters control – Rodney A. Davis

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