History is not a strong point of this Administration. Last month it was President Obama declaring another “sputnik moment” for America–only to rattle off a list of big government ideas completely at odds with how Eisenhower responded to Sputnik.
Yesterday, it was White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs delivering another dose of “say what?” history. What’s been happening in Egypt over the last week or so, he informed the press, “are events that many people have not seen — nobody has seen in their lifetime.”
Gibbs was born in 1971. So in his lifetime alone we’ve seen quite a few examples of cataclysmic political upheaval, from the Iranian Revolution to the collapse of the Warsaw Pact. And you don’t have to be eligible for Social Security to remember the aborted Hungarian and Czech Revolutions.
Unexpected political upheaval happens a lot. In fact, it’s the sort of crisis a president can expect to face while in office.
The point is not that the White House should be staffed with better historians, but that this Administration seems more focused on messaging than on governing well.
Gibbs can’t possibly believe that events in Egypt present an unprecedented challenge. Difficult, yes. But unprecedented, not at all.
Pretending that the Egyptian situation is sui generis is simply a desperate attempt to find a message that might get the Administration off the hook for a week of slow, disjointed and ineffectual response.
Exculpatory messaging is the last thing the White House should be focusing on right now. A crisis of this kind demands presidential leadership, not trumped up excuses for the lack thereof.
Events in Egypt will play out of weeks, months, and years. The Obama Administration should be preparing to deal with the future rather than trying to rewrite history. Safeguarding America’s long-term interests overseas requires leadership, not alibis.