Obama’s African summit stumble
I guess events aren’t delivering enough bad karma to President Obama these days, because he decided to go out and make his own bad press on Wednesday. He hosted a summit with African “leaders” – a term that belongs in scare quotes when applied to some of the thugs and kleptocrats who showed up to pose for photos with the American president and his First Lady. The UK Daily Mail called it “Obama’s Monsters Ball.” The only monster who wasn’t invited was Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, which tells you a lot about Robert Mugabe.
The White House promoted the summit as the largest-ever gathering of African leaders in the United States, with more than 50 countries represented.
The red carpet was rolled out for Equatorial Guinea’s Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, who shot or jailed virtually all his political opponents, Gambia’s Yahya Jammeh, who threatened to ‘cut off the head’ of any homosexuals in the country and for Cameroon’s Paul Biya, who has the dubious honor of ranking 19th on author David Wallechinsky’s 2006 list of the world’s 20 worst living dictators.
Many of the leaders were later photographed in the White House, posing for individual portraits with Obama and the First Lady.
The President’s opening speech avoided the prickly issues of homophobia and torture and instead sought out similarities between the two continents.
He opened with: ‘I stand before you as the president of the United States, a proud American. I also stand before you as the son of a man from Africa’.
Before going on to say: ‘Our faith traditions remind us of the inherent dignity of every human being and that our work as nations must be rooted in empathy and compassion for each other, as brothers and as sisters.’
Obama’s supposed rapport with African leadership is what led an MSNBC reporter, discussing the Wednesday summit, to say that Obama is from Kenya. Let us pause for a moment of comic relief from the network that serves as a better satire of television journalism than anything Jon Stewart has done in a while:
The Daily Mail lists the crimes of nine of the worst attendees of Obama’s little shindig, none of whom faced the slightest condemnation from the American president. One of them used the money looted from his impoverished people to buy the jacket Michael Jackson wore in the “Thriller” video, while another treated himself to a million-dollar command performance by Mariah Carey. Paul Biya, dictator of Cameroon, pays off international observers to claim that his stuffed ballot boxes are legit. Gambian president Yahya Jammeh, who elected himself in one of those coups Obama occasionally expresses disapproval of, imprisoned a thousand people on charges of witchcraft and threatened to behead any homosexuals caught in his country. Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan, so utterly ineffectual at dealing with the Boko Haram Islamist terror gang, is also keen to crack down on gays, although he settles for putting them in jail. The president of Rwanda, halfway through his second decade of power, owes much of his political success to the suppression of free speech, and the tendency of his opponents to die under suspicious circumstances. Even Obama’s homeland… er, sorry, I’ve been watching too much MSNBC, I mean ancestral homeland… of Kenya is a thug state currently facing charges before an international criminal court.
Now, diplomacy does require one to associate with people who don’t measure up to American ideals. As the Daily Mail notes, former President George W. Bush attended the African summit, too. The idea of holding such a summit is defensible. But to confer the full legitimacy of international respect on characters like this, without putting in a word for free speech, tolerance, fair elections, and honest government is a mistake. Obama addressed these people as if they were all democracy-loving reformers, after chuckling about what a wonderful time they had together at dinner the previous evening:
Good morning, everyone. Michelle and I were honored to host you and your wonderful spouses at dinner last night. I hope people didn’t stay out too late. The evening was a chance to celebrate the bonds between our peoples. And this morning, we continue our work, and it’s my privilege to welcome you to this first-ever U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit.
So we come together this week because, even as the continent faces significant challenges, as I said last night, I believe a new Africa is emerging.
To my fellow leaders, I want to thank you and your teams for helping us to shape our agenda today. Our work can build on the valuable contributions already made this week by civil society groups, the private sector, young Africans, and — at our first session of this summit – our faith communities, which do so much to sustain the U.S.- Africa relationship. Different though they may be, our faith traditions remind us of the inherent dignity of every human being and that our work as nations must be rooted in empathy and compassion for each other, as brothers and as sisters.
“Faith traditions?” Does that cover jailing people for witchcraft? Does the violent suppression of political dissent show that respect for “the inherent dignity of every human being” Obama was talking about? He did get around to mentioning the importance of economic growth and free societies as his second “broad area where we can make progress together.” Those are topics the increasingly authoritarian and economically moribund Obama is not well-equipped to give lectures about:
Second, we have the opportunity to strengthen the governance upon which economic growth and free societies depend. Today we can focus on the ingredients of progress: rule of law, open government, accountable and transparent institutions, strong civil societies, and respect for the universal human rights of all people.
How do you say that with a straight face while toasting President Obiang of Equatorial Guinea, a guy who robbed his national treasury and used the money to build himself a 101-room mansion in France, while the average income of his people is two dollars a day?
Part of the problem with Obama’s corruption of American ideals is that we’re no longer able to lead by shining example. If you’re one of these African dictators, you don’t feel embarrassed to sit at the same table with the Leader of the Free World, whose government’s absolute devotion to freedom of speech, freedom of religion, economic liberty, and individual dignity has created a roaring economy and vibrant political culture that stands as an eternal rebuke to your way of life, no matter what diplomatic happy talk the American president might dispense in his prepared remarks. Instead, these African leaders had dinner with the American president who turned the IRS into a political weapon, siphoned billions from the U.S. Treasury to his cronies, created a health-care system that corrupts the entire Constitutional order, let the VA system degenerate into an even worse carnival of incompetence and corruption than it was when he took office, and increasingly rules through illegal executive orders. If Obama doesn’t explicitly mention the offenses of the African dictators, they have no particular reason to feel that his mere presence is a wordless rebuke.
What else can anyone do for the suffering people of Africa, if their corrupt governments are left undisturbed? What good does foreign aid do, when these characters are just going to divert the money into their numbered bank accounts, or maybe buy themselves a new Gulfstream luxury jet? Who’s going to voluntarily pour vitally-needed investment dollars into a cesspool of corruption and political violence? How can well-meaning Westerners send food to the starving, when a gang of thugs is standing by to ensure that political undesirables stay nice and hungry? For decades now, Africa policy has been all about halfhearted attempts to treat symptoms without addressing the underlying disease. There was reason to hope Barack Obama might be uniquely well-suited to make some progress on that front. He certainly presents himself that way. But as in so many areas, what he actually does is quite a letdown from the way he talks about himself.
Obama gave an incredibly weak press conference after his African summit that raised eyebrows even from sympathetic media quarters, thanks to his lazy who-gives-a-damn attitude about the crises currently gripping much of the world. The two most remarkable moments came when he yawned that he might think about arming the Ukrainians to resist an increasingly likely Russian invasion, after the Russians invade, and his jaw-dropping use of the word “irresponsible” to describe the Hamas war crime of using human shields to protect their terrorist weapons. Irresponsible is a word that could be accurately used to describe Barack Obama, but it’s not remotely appropriate for Hamas, not least because putting civilian lives in jeopardy is their deliberate core strategy, not something they do by accident when they get a bit carried away with their crazy rocket hijinks.
Obama also refused to rule out using a “nuclear bomb” executive order to grant some form of amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants. Golly, isn’t he the very same man who said, not a month ago, that the people of Central America were insane to send their kids on a dangerous unaccompanied journey to the United States, because they’d all be returned home promptly? Wasn’t it just yesterday that the President’s flacks were disparaging the notion that his amnesty orders were directly responsible for bringing the flood of illegal immigrants across the border? Once again, the Mad Hatter quality of this Administration’s rhetoric on immigration is spotlighted. People who dash across the border because they expect they’ll be able to stay forever, and soon enough gain access to the American job market and welfare state, are not crazy, stupid, or misinformed.
The Fox News panel following Obama’s speech did a great job of tearing it apart. Charles Krauthammer is exactly right: Obama is demonstrating to the “bad guys in this world that you don’t have to worry about this guy.” Heck, you can rob and oppress your own people without even having to worry about criticism from Obama. Only a violent cross-border attack loosens his tongue. (Video courtesy of the Washington Free Beacon.)
I’ve long thought of Obama as the chief of staff for Hospice America. His ideology is all about making an exhausted nation comfortable on its deathbed, before it fades away into an oblivion it deserves for all its past sins. Polls showing huge majorities of Americans believing their children and grandchildren won’t be able to match their achievements, or enjoy their lifestyle, show that the morphine drip is starting to take effect. Obama’s foreign policy – designed to make it clear America is no longer a major force in the world, and has no right to be – is him drawing the shades in the hospice room and dimming the lights as we drift away. Try not to make a fuss for the bureaucratic nurses as you go gently into that good night. If you need Dr. Obama for anything, he’ll be on the golf course.