Thursday, April 23, 2009

Giving legitimacy to dictators


This is perhaps the best paragraph I have read on the last stop on the Barack Obama American Apology World Tour. Daniel Henninger of the Wall Street Journal makes the observation that these photo ops at the Summit of the Americas gave Chavez and other dictators around the world what they crave: the veneer of legitimacy.

Other than physically controlling their populations, the biggest problem for autocrats -- most of them narcissistic monomaniacs -- is maintaining the legitimacy of their authority, which by definition is always on thin ice. To Mr. Obama and his handlers perhaps it was just a photo-op. For Mr. Chávez it was priceless. Merely being seen or photographed in the presence of civilized society -- at summits, negotiations, in state visits -- empowers the autocrat and discourages his opposition.

As Henninger points out later in his editorial, the party line out of the People’s Republic of Obama is that this pandering to thugs is permissible because Ronald Reagan met with top leaders of authoritarian regimes. First, Barack Obama is not Ronald Reagan. A man who can deliver a decent speech from a teleprompter is not in the same league as Reagan, a great orator with strength of convictions and true courage. Second, Reagan approached these meetings from a position of strength. Everyone knew that the United States was strong and getting stronger and would not tolerate totalitarianism. With Obama we see a nation that is getting weaker, led by a weak man with no convictions.

President Obama is many things but he is no Ronald Reagan. His grinning photo op with Hugo Chavez gave encouragement to dictators around the world and discouragement to those who risk their lives to bring freedom to their people.
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