Bill O’Reilly’s Sunday interview with Barack Obama revealed a president who has not changed course from the path of the last two years—contrary to the conventional wisdom on both left and right in Washington.
On the revolution sweeping Egypt and other Middle Eastern capitals, President Obama still cannot articulate what U.S. interests are and how he will use tools available to him to advance those interests.
This could be as easy as saying, "we stand with those seeking democracy, we insist that the dictator of Egypt leave, and we will oppose and work against the Islamists who want an even worse alternative to existing repression."
Instead, Mr. Obama seemed again to reprise the role of the litigator-in-chief who took three months in 2009 to respond to an urgent request for more troops from our military commander in Afghanistan, and who refused to support democracy forces in Iran as they took to the streets in 2009 and again last year.
When asked directly by O’Reilly if the Muslim Brotherhood is a threat to the U.S., the president responded: “I think the Muslim Brotherhood is one faction in Egypt, but they are well organized there are strains of their ideology that are anti-U.S.”
Got that? This is a rather blithe assessment of one of the oldest and most central pillars of the ideology the seeks to unify mosque and state and subject everyone to an Iranian-style theocracy.
It should have been an easy question to answer—unless you fundamentally misunderstand the threat posed by the Islamist ideology that unifies disparate groups like Al Qaeda, the Taliban, Hezbollah and the Muslim Brotherhood. This seems to lend credence to unfortunate reports that the White House is open to a new Egyptian government that allows a role for the Brotherhood. --This same line of thinking has just paved the way for a Lebanese government controlled by Hezbollah and in the orbit of Iran. More to come apparently.
As for the economy and Obamacare, the president repeated now well-trod talking points that “I don’t want to spend the next two years refighting the battles of the last two years.”
Put another way, Mr. Obama does not understand—or rejects outright—the verdict of voters in elections last November. They clearly and unequivocally rejected the socialist path on which Mr. Obama and his Democratic allies in Congress had placed America. Undoubtedly, they do want some of the battles of the last years' refought.
O’Reilly asked Mr. Obama if he is “a man who wants to redistribute wealth.” He denied it “absolutely.” This from the who in the 2008 campaign said that “I think when you spread the wealth around, it’s good for everybody.”
His response to O’Reilly seems either delusional or disingenuous. By trying to freeze in place the massive increase in government spending and deficits and Washington’s power grab in the form of Obamacare (i.e., “not refighting the battles of the last two years”), President Obama has demonstrated anew that he puts faith in government decision-making rather than individuals making decisions about what is best for themselves and their families. On this, he is consistent.
There is a conventional wisdom in Washington that President Obama has moderated since the November elections and performed better as commander in chief. Judging by his discussion with O’Reilly, the conventional wisdom is wrong.
Christian Whiton is the president of the Hamilton Foundation. He was a State Department senior advisor in the George W. Bush administration and a policy advisor on the Giuliani and Gingrich presidential campaigns. He is author of "Smart Power: Between Diplomacy and War" (Potomac Books 2013).