Obama’s wrong, even when he’s right

OBAMA’S WRONG, EVEN WHEN HE’S RIGHT…. As post-election developments in Iran spiraled into violence, many on the right were outraged — or, at least they pretended to be — that President Obama didn’t thump his chest more. The administration, conservatives said, should take a firm stand in support of democracy and liberal principles.

In the wake of the coup in Honduras, it seemed the administration was taking steps that even these conservatives would like. The president spoke up personally yesterday to criticize Zelaya’s ouster. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called on for the “full restoration” of democracy in the country.

So, the right is finally pleased, right? Wrong. The same people who loved democratic principles in the Middle East two weeks ago aren’t especially concerned about the overthrow of a democratically elected president in central American this week.

On the June 29 edition of his Fox News show, Glenn Beck said of Zelaya’s ouster: “They installed their own man, drawing a quick rebuke from Cuba, Venezuela’s president, Hugo Chavez, and our president.” Beck added: “Wow, good company we’re keeping ourselves with.” Similarly, on the June 30 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends, in arguing that Obama was “sending the wrong message to our allies and our foes,” Beck stated: “I’m telling you, the policies that we have seem to always embrace our enemies and slap our friends across the face. It just doesn’t make sense to me.”

Apparently, if Hugo Chavez and Daniel Ortega take a stand against a coup in a foreign country, far-right media personalities believe the United States should necessarily take the other side and support the coup, because, well, Hugo Chavez and Daniel Ortega are “bad.”

This attitude was endorsed, not only by Glenn Beck, but also by Wall Street Journal editorial board member Mary Anastasia O’Grady, Drudge, Bill Kristol, and Charles Krauthammer. In fact, offering the kind of sophisticated, high-brow analysis we’ve come to expect, Krauthammer argued on Fox News, “[A] rule of thumb here is whenever you find yourself on the side of Hugo Chavez, Daniel Ortega, and the Castro twins, you ought to re-examine your assumptions.”

Now, I realize that developments in Honduras are not cut and dried, at least when it comes to identifying “good” guys and “bad.” Zelaya was poised to work outside the law to stay in power, and his opponents worked outside the law to remove him from office.

But the analysis we’re getting from the lines of Kristol and Krauthammer aren’t focused on the merits of the situation. They’re not even addressing the up-until-recently-popular principle of defending democracy at all costs. Instead, they’re offering a child-like approach to foreign affairs (if Chavez opposes a coup, coup = good).

For what it’s worth, the European Union has also condemned the coup in Honduras, putting the United States on the same side as our traditional allies. Reflexive conservative hackery notwithstanding, it’s not unusual for international governments to criticize the overthrow of democratically elected leaders.

Meanwhile, in Honduras, tear gas was used to break up protests yesterday, and the “provisional” government cracked down on international media and blocked Internet access for its citizens. They sound like the kind of developments Kristol and Krauthammer might otherwise find interesting.