Don't Do Stupid, er, Stuff
Monday June 2, 2014
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The governing theory of President Barack Obama's foreign policy swung into full view today - after a number of out-of-town tryouts - when Pulitzer Prize winning writer Thomas Freidman wrote in his Sunday New York Times Column:
"When President Obama sits down to write his foreign policy memoir he may be tempted to use as his book title the four words he reportedly uses privately to summarize the Obama doctrine: 'Don't Do Stupid Stuff' (with 'stuff' sometimes defined more spicily)."
The reason Friedman was so circumspect about the quote ("
he reportedly uses
") is because Obama has been holding a series of off-the-record chats with reporters to help them understand that his foreign policy isn't a mess, it is the carefully constructed result of attempting to not do anything stupid.
Putting aside for the moment the fact that the very press corps that quakes and rails in righteous anger and frustration on a daily basis at the lack of transparency of the Obama Administration, wags its collective tail and scoots into secret off-the-record sessions like the needy and obedient puppies they are, the notion of an entire foreign policy being reduced to those four words struck a chord in Tweeter-ville yesterday.
It began when the National Journal's senior, bi-partisan political class disciplinarian, Ron Fournier, Tweeted:
"Don't Do Stupid [Stuff]" Really? That's how Obama and his team privately describe his foreign policy vision? Out Loud? With Straight Faces?
That opened the flood gates for Tweeters sending aphorisms and famous quotes substituting Stupid [Stuff] for the real words.
For example, "I did not do Stupid [Stuff] with that woman. Miss Lewinsky."
Or, "Walk softly and don't do Stupid [Stuff]"
It turns out that the Obama Administration has routinely violated its own stupid rule time after time.
Take health care and the famous approximation of the Hippocratic oath "First, do no Stupid [Stuff]."
Obama (and Nancy Pelosi) shoved more than 60 Democratic Members of the U.S. House off the electoral plank in 2010 by forcing them to vote for a bill that no one had read beyond the title: "The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act."
Then he did it again last October when the Administration tried to flip the "ON" switch to put Obamacare into action only to find that not much programming had been done beyond the title.
"You will be able keep your Stupid [Stuff]. Period."
Last month, more medical Stupid [Stuff] came to light when the horrors routinely occurring at the Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals where thousands - maybe tens of thousands - of vets have been denied basic health care on a regular basis while the highly-paid bureaucrats were busily hiding that very fact.
On foreign policy, the Obama echo of Ronald Reagan's famous line, "Mr. Gorbachov, tear down this Stupid [Stuff] " as regards Russia, had to do with the mighty foreign policy triumvirate of Barack Obama, Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton making merry over having pressed a programmatic "Reset Button" for the US/Russian relationship.
However, "By the end of 2013," wrote James Goldgeier in the Washington Post this past March, "The reset has been over for some time, and there is nothing [in the relationship] to save."
We had already seen Obama's violation of his own Stupid [Stuff] rule when he rhetorically drew a red line in the Syrian sand if Assad used chemical weapons, only to have to try to erase the line when Assad actually did it and Obama apparently decided making good on his vague threat would be Stupid [Stuff]
"Your President is not a Stupid [Stuff]."
I understand how this all came to be. In the White House the ever-tightening circle around the President needed something that they could portray as deceptively simple - but with a far deeper meaning for those smart enough to tease it out - while sounding modern and cool.
It is a direct steal of the famous mandate of James Carville and Paul Begala during the Presidential election campaign of 1992 "It's the economy, stupid."
A couple of things the geniuses in the West Wing missed:
1. It wasn't a policy prescription, it was a messaging frame.
Later in his column, after recounting one foreign policy failure after another, Friedman who began it by suggesting Obama's foreign policy memoir be titled "Don't do Stupid [Stuff]," suggested a different title: "Present at the Disintegration."
"Life is just a box of Stupid [Stuff]."
On the Secret Decoder Ring today: Links to the Friedman and Goldgeier columns, and to the Wikipedia entry for "It's the economy, stupid."
2. Bill Clinton was the Governor of Arkansas, not the President of the United States.
Also a Mullfoto of a checkpoint we came upon in Ukraine last week.
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