By now, Obama and his savvy campaign staff should really be home free, having run political circles around their Republican opponent as he was running circles around himself. There's only one problem: the world. These days it’s threatening to be a bizarrely uncooperative place for a president who wants to rest on his Osama-killing foreign-policy laurels.
An Administration of Managers Face the Tsunami
So send Mitt to the Cayman Islands, stick Paul Ryan in a Swiss bank account, and focus your attention instead on Obama versus the world. For the next 43 days, that's the real contest. It could prove to be the greatest show on Earth, filled as it is with a stellar cast of Islamist extremists, Taliban militants, Afghan allies intent on blowing away their mentors, endangered American diplomats, an Israeli prime minister on the red-line express, sober central European bankers, and a perturbed Chinese leadership, among so many others.
In such a potentially tumultuous situation, the president and his people are committed to a perilous high-wire act without a net. It involves bringing to bear all the power and savvy left to the last superpower on Earth to prevent some part of the world from spinning embarrassingly out of control, lest the president’s opponent be handed a delectable “October surprise.”
Keep in mind that, despite the president’s reputation as a visionary speaker, in global terms his has distinctly been an administration of managers. The visionaries came earlier. They were the first-term Bushites, including George W., Dick, and Donald, each in his own way globally bonkers, and all of them and their associates almost blissfully wrong about the nature of power in our world. (They mistook the destructive power of the U.S. military for global power itself.) As a consequence, they blithely steered the ship of state directly into a field of giant icebergs.
Think of that wrecking crew, in retrospect, as the three stooges of geopolitical dreaming. The invasion and occupation of Iraq, in particular -- as well as the hubris that went with the very idea of a “global war on terror” -- were acts of take-your-breath-away folly that help explain why the Bush administration was MIA at the recent Republican convention (as was, of course, the Iraq War). In the process, they drove a stake directly through the energy heartlands of the planet, leaving autocratic allies there gasping for breath and wondering what was next. Since 2009, the managers of the Obama administration have been doing what managers do best: fiddling with the order of the deck chairs on our particular Titanic. This might be thought of as managing the Bush legacy.