PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad and Tobago — President Obama endured a 50-minute diatribe from socialist Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega that lashed out at a century of what he called terroristic U.S. aggression in Central America and included a rambling denunciation of the U.S.-imposed isolation of Cuba’s Communist government.
Obama sat mostly unmoved during the speech but at times jotted notes. The speech was part of the opening ceremonies at the fifth Summit of the Americas here.
Later, at a photo opportunity with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Obama held his tongue when asked what he thought about Ortega’s speech.
“It was 50 minutes long. That’s what I thought.”
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton ignored two questions about Ortega’s speech, instead offering lengthy praise of a cultural performance of dance and song opening the summit.
“I thought the cultural performance was fascinating,” Clinton said. Asked again about the Ortega speech, Clinton said: “To have those first class Caribbean entertainers on all on one stage and to see how much was done in such a small amount of space, I was overwhelmed.”
A senior administration official declined to criticize Ortega, saying the president wanted to focus on the future.
“His expectation is that these debates of the past can remain that, debates of the past and that the leaders can take advantage of this opportunity to focus on what they can do in the future to advance the interests of all the people of the hemisphere.”
Ortega, meanwhile, droned on about the offenses of the past, dredging up U.S. support of the Somoza regime and the “illegal” war against the Sandinista regime he once led by U.S.-backed Contra rebels in the 1980s. Ortega was a member of the revolutionary junta that drove Anastasio Somoza from power in 1979 and was elected president in 1985. He was defeated in 1990 by Violeta Chamorro and ran unsuccessfully twice for the presidency before winning in 2006.
Ortega denounced the U.S.-backed attempt to overthrow Fidel Castro’s new Communist government in Cuba in 1961, a history of US racism and what he called suffocating U.S. economic policies in the region.
In his 17-minute address to the summit, Obama departed from his prepared remarks to mildly rebuke Ortega.
“To move forward, we cannot let ourselves be prisoners of past disagreements. I’m grateful that President Ortega did not blame me for things that happened when I was three months old. Too often, an opportunity to build a fresh partnership of the Americas has been undermined by stale debates. We’ve all heard these arguments before.”
“I’m grateful that President Ortega did not blame me for things that happened when I was three months old”?? What kind of defense of your country is that? It’s not – it’s a lame attempt at defending himself, which is pathetic. As much as he’d like to make it about him, it’s not – it’s about America, and for him to say he’s “grateful” to Ortega after everything he’d said about this country shows he’s willing to sit back and take it rather than stand up for it. Obama is the President of the United States, and he has an obligation to defend this country, not continually apologize for it, and not to continually rub elbows with socialist “leaders” in foreign countries who despise it – and despise freedom.
William Jacobson puts an even finer point on it all:
There is something truly bizarre about this reasoning. If something happened when Obama was not of a certain age (we know it is at least eight years old, although we don’t know where the line is drawn) then he accepts no responsibility. That is fine if one is talking about personal responsibility only. Obama is no more responsible on a personal level for what others did, be it yesterday or 30 years ago, than anyone else.
But Obama no longer is “anyone else.” Obama is the President and bears the burden of dealing with accusations and attacks on this country related to events which did not take place on his watch.
If Obama agreed with the attacks by Ortega, Chavez and others, then Obama should have had the guts to say so, and dealt with the domestic consequences. That would have been brave. If Obama didn’t agree, then he should have had the guts to stand up for his country then and there, in front of the tyrants. That would have been even braver.
The one option no longer available to President Obama is to hide behind his narcissistic view of his own personal responsibility. That is cowardly. The presidency is bigger than the person, and only a big person realizes and accepts that fact.
Obama’s overseas trips have proved one thing and one thing only: That when it comes to foreign policy and diplomatic relations, he makes George W. Bush look like a genius. God help us that we’ll have to endure at least three and a half more years of this abject nonsense.
John Hinderaker at Power Line has a recap of Obama’s bumbles and stumbles this week on his latest apology tour.
Cross-posted to Right Wing News, where I am helping guestblog for John Hawkins on Sundays.