Dick Cheney tells Fox News that President Obama’s handshake with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez could lead “foes” of the U.S. to “think they’re dealing with a weak president.”
Lyndon Johnson’s appraisal of Richard Nixon comes to mind in this growing debate about President Obama’s toughness or lack thereof.
“Not much here,” said LBJ, pointing at his head. “Even less here,” touching his heart, then lowering a hand to below his belt: “But enough down there.”
Now there is clucking on both the Right and Left about how much Obama has “down there.”
“In some of his earliest skirmishes,” the New York Times worries, “Mr. Obama eventually chose pragmatism over fisticuffs” and quotes a former Clinton official: “The thing we still don’t know about him is what he is willing to fight for. The thing I worry about is that he likes giving good speeches, he likes the adulation and he likes to make people happy. It’s hard to think of a place where he’s taken a really hard position.”
Say what? Ramming through a stimulus bill and budget that could make or break his presidency? Pushing auto makers to the brink of bankruptcy if they fail to shape up? Ordering use of force to rescue an American captain in the Indian Ocean (too much, by Rush Limbaugh’s lights)? Making public the torture memos (risky, says Bush’s CIA chief as those on the Left complain about his refusal to prosecute former agents)?
The critics are confusing bluster with toughness.