The posers

Washington is full of posers. The most egregious ones eat brie and sip wine in Middleburg, snap pictures of themselves at polo matches and hope that their visages make it into the society page. They are a harmless, if confounding group. They make Gatsby look authentic. But they seem to have a good time, so more power to them.

Dick Cheney is all over the news today, because he is raising questions about a different poser. He earlier accused President Obama of dithering when it came to his decision on Afghanistan. Now that the decision is at hand, the former vice president is concerned that the current president is exhibiting weakness to the rest of the world.

It is somewhat unusual for a former vice president to be this critical of a current administration this early in a term. Al Gore waited at least a year before he started his Bush-bashing in earnest.

The subtext of Cheney’s remarks is that the president is a poser, that he doesn’t know what he is doing, that he doesn’t believe in American exceptionalism, that he doesn’t believe in American strength.

Tough words, especially coming from a vice president of an administration that left office with the lowest popular opinion polls in history.

The president has finally stopped dithering on Afghanistan, and he has told his allies and the Pentagon that he is going to bet that more troops will help stabilize the region. He thought long and hard about that decision, and it couldn’t have been easy for a president who represents the liberal wing of the liberal Democratic Party.

The supposedly disloyal and overly partisan Republican Party will back Mr. Obama on this decision, even though it is not exactly a no-brainer for them either.

A lot of Republicans are just as tired of this war as the Democrats. They understand the stakes, but they also understand the costs. And Republicans have a vibrant anti-war wing, led by Ron Paul, Jimmy Duncan and George Will.

But congressional Republican leaders also understand the bigger stakes that are out there. They understand that the president, while he may be a poser, must make the right decision on Afghanistan so that our prestige around the world doesn’t decline any more than it already has. They understand that should the president decide to cut and run on Afghanistan, not only would the Taliban win, but extremist Islamic groups would win. They understand that should the president give in to the liberals, then the Chinese and the Russians would be emboldened, and a more emboldened China and Russia are dangerous for the rest of the world.

So congressional Republicans are willing to back Mr. Obama on his decision on Afghanistan, because they believe that the country would be better off if we have a plan that will plausibly help beat the bad guys.

I don’t know if President Obama is a poser or not. He came into office frightfully inexperienced, hopelessly naïve and alarmingly liberal. He had the thinnest résumé of any president of the last century. He spoke of hope and change, but didn’t put too much meat on the bone. And his philosophy is more Henry Wallace than FDR.

And thus far as president, he hasn’t cut much of a defined figure. While he gives plenty of speeches, and he travels all the time, he hasn’t made any memorable decisions that have helped define him as a leader.

That is why the former vice president can get away with calling him a poser.

Mr. Obama can’t have it both ways on Afghanistan. He can’t please the liberals and please the Pentagon at the same time. He can’t put in more troops and take them out at the same time.

He finally has made a decision. I think it is the right one.

That doesn’t make me love this president or what he is doing with the rest of America. But it does give me hope that eventually, he will make the right call, when all the other options are ruled out.

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