Read Paul's bio and previous columns


June 15, 2009

Obama Deserves No Credit for Lebanese Elections


A rare piece of good news recently came out of the Middle East: An American-backed (or, rather, Bush-backed) political coalition defeated Hezbollah and its allies in Lebanese parliamentary elections. And ever since, President Obama’s supporters have desperately made every stretch to credit him – and particularly his Cairo speech – for the victory, in an attempt to justify the less-than-impressive foreign policy route of his young administration.


As a Lebanese-born and raised columnist who, for obvious reasons, has studied and kept a close eye on developments in Lebanon, I feel compelled to address such claims.


It is first important to indicate that between the two main sides of the Lebanese political scene, there is a heavy dose of dirty, corrupt and dangerous politicians and parties. That said, there is indeed a lesser of two evils that was enthusiastically embraced by the Bush Administration and by the rest of the Western world, and it won again last week.


Of course, the Obama media, which suddenly became filled with self-proclaimed experts on Lebanon who can so confidently explain the situation on the ground, rushed to applaud their beloved leader for the favorable results, yet with virtually zero evidence.


Unfortunately, empty hymns of praise were not limited to left-wing blogs. In the New York Times, Michael Slackman claims that “political analysts” attributed the election results in part to Obama’s special outreach to the Muslim world. Slackman broadly leans on the word “analysts” eight times in his piece, but only quotes one of them as evidence of his Obama thesis – a lone Saudi sociologist.


In a piece entitled “Obama changed Lebanese minds,” Atlanta Journal-Constitution columnist Cynthia Tucker writes: “On Sunday, an American-aligned coalition won a surprising victory in Lebanon’s parliamentary elections, pushing back a challenge by Hezbollah, which had been widely expected to win a majority of seats. There were undoubtedly many factors at play – Lebanon’s politics are fractured and Byzantine – but Obama’s well-received speech has been credited with making a difference.”


Ms. Tucker has yet to respond to specific requests for sources regarding her statements that Hezbollah was “widely expected to win a majority of seats” (it was not), and that Obama’s speech was “well-received” in Lebanon (highly questionable). Most importantly, she has yet to specify, beyond her convenient use of the passive voice, who exactly has “credited” Obama’s speech with having an impact.  Maybe it’s Slackman’s “analysts” again.


Thomas Friedman also jumps on the bandwagon, writing: “President Barack Obama defeated President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran,” and after at least acknowledging George W. Bush’s actions, he adds, “Mr. Obama helped stir the hope. Words also matter.” Again, Friedman presents zero evidence in support of the Obama thesis, except for the following word from the ground: “As more than one Lebanese whispered to me: Without George Bush standing up to the Syrians in 2005 – and forcing them to get out of Lebanon after the Hariri killing – this free election would not have happened.”


Oh wait, the one piece of evidence Friedman offers credits Bush with the election, not Obama. Indeed after watching Bill Clinton look away for eight years as Syria raped Lebanon, the Bush Administration forced the expulsion of the occupiers and paved the path for another round of favorable elections.


Barack Obama, on the other hand, had nothing to do with the results. In the days approaching the election, he danced around the issue in his usual tip-toeing style, almost as if he was too embarrassed to pick a side – even though the choice was quite clear.


His Cairo speech, which the Obama media hungrily seized as a rationalization for the election results, contained nothing that could reasonably be interpreted to have affected the outcome in Lebanon. In fact, a speech that blurred right and wrong, while apologizing for the Bush administration’s very democratization efforts that saved Lebanon from vicious Syrian occupation, could only encourage those who opposed America’s previous democratization efforts – and not America’s Lebanese allies.


Not even Obama’s response to the election results demonstrated any enthusiasm about working with a pro-Western majority. His official statement praised only the fact that an election happened, and not the election’s happy results. In fact, about one third of his statement – 60 words – was literally copied and pasted directly from a generic section of his Cairo speech that didn’t even address Lebanon specifically.


How can Obama columnists credit the outcome to a man who was too scared to take sides before the election, and was equally embarrassed to congratulate the pro-American side once it won? How can they claim that he cares at all about Lebanon, when he had some intern lazily write a generic reaction statement, a third of which was insultingly taken verbatim from another speech? Indeed, if the pro-American side had lost, the Obama-bots would have speedily chalked it up to Obama’s decision to refrain from taking sides in the election.


Pro-liberty forces in Lebanon spent decades trying to rid themselves of Iranian and Syrian influence, were able to take a massive step forward during the Bush Administration and spent many months campaigning intensely to win the latest elections. What an insult to all of these people (and their sometimes dead or missing families) it is to credit an electoral victory to a mere speech by a man who wouldn’t even take clear sides. Never mind the absurdity of claiming that an apologetic speech aimed at Muslims favorably changed the outcome of an election where Christians possessed the swing vote.


A successful case by the Obama media necessitates more evidence than mere chronological proximity between a speech and an election. Yet as we should have thoroughly learned by now, facts simply don’t matter to those intent on hiding Obama’s foreign policy fruitlessness with a faux narrative of accomplishment.

© 2009 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


Click here to talk to our writers and editors about this column and others in our discussion forum.


To e-mail feedback about this column, click here. If you enjoy this writer's work, please contact your local newspapers editors and ask them to carry it.

This is Column # PI169. Request permission to publish here.
Op-Ed Writers
Eric Baerren
Lucia de Vernai
Herman Cain
Dan Calabrese
Bob Franken
Lawrence J. Haas
Paul Ibrahim
David Karki
Llewellyn King
Gregory D. Lee
David B. Livingstone
Bob Maistros
Rachel Marsden
Nathaniel Shockey
Stephen Silver
Candace Talmadge
Jessica Vozel
Jamie Weinstein
Brett Noel
Feature Writers
Mike Ball
Bob Batz
Cindy Droog
The Laughing Chef
David J. Pollay
Business Writers
D.F. Krause