I suppose it would be charitable to say that Jonathan Karl was simply being a reporter when he stood up during a press conference at The Hague Tuesday and asked President Barack Obama if Mitt Romney was correct during the 2012 presidential campaign when he referred to Russia as America’s “Number one geopolitical foe,” a description the President contended, at the time, better suited Iran due to the Islamic republic’s nuclear ambitions.
The ABC News reporter’s question was ironic, considering that the President had won a major victory in his efforts to secure the world’s stockpile of nuclear weapons, following Japan’s announcement hours earlier that it would return to the United States more than 700 pounds of weapons grade plutonium and a supply of highly enriched uranium.
The news from Japan would have been an important subject of inquiry for most other reporters assembled with the international press core, but certainly not juicy enough for Karl and other members of the US media contingent, which, In light of Russia’s grabbing control of Crimea, seemed more interested in declaring Romney right and Obama wrong.
A noteworthy recapping of this event can be seen on MSNBC’s The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell, who, in describing this interchange between Karl and an unruffled President Obama, said:
At the President’s press conference at The Hague today, he discovered that the Romney campaign is alive and well, at least in the hearts of some White House Correspondents.
JONATHAN KARL: Do you think Mitt Romney had a point when he said that Russia is America’s biggest geopolitical foe?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: With Respect to Mr. Romney’s assertion that Russia’s our number one geopolitical foe. The truth of the matter is that…America’s got a whole lot of challenges… Russia is a regional power that is threatening some of its immediate neighbors…not out of strength, but out of weakness. The fact that Russia felt compelled to go in militarily, and laid bare these violations of international law, indicates less influence not more…. Russia’s actions are a problem. They don’t pose the number one national security check to the United States…. I continue to be much more concerned, when it comes to our security, with the prospect of a nuclear weapon going off in Manhattan, which is part of the reason why the United State’s showing its continued international leadership has organized a forum over the last seven years, which has been able to eliminate that threat in a consistent way.
In a seeming attempt at embarrassing the President, Karl continued through the utilization of the idiotic suggestion by Republicans that by not commencing some form of military action against Russia, the President has contributed to the “decline of America.”
JONATHAN KARL: In China, in Syria, in Egypt, and now in Russia, we’ve seen you make strong statements—issue warnings that have been ignored. Are you concerned that America’s influence in the world—your influence in the world is on a decline?
President Obama’s measured, concise, and logical response, not only reminded so many why they elected and reelected him President, but he stood before an international audience and thoroughly deconstructed Karl and his ridiculous Republican engendered propaganda.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well Jonathan, I think…if the premise of the question is that whenever the United States objects to an action, and other countries don’t immediately do exactly what we want…that that’s been the norm…that would pretty much erase most of twentieth century history…I think that there’s a distinction between us being very clear about what we think is an appropriate action, what we stand for, what principles we believe in, versus, what is, I guess, is implied in the question that we should engage in some sort of military action to prevent something.
With this very thoughtful reply, the President not only pointed to the fact that the United States managed to maintain a dominant position in the world throughout the past century despite the fact that other nations have on occasion disobeyed it, but he also stated clearly what many on the Right have been calling for, through veiled language of “not standing up to Putin” and repeated innuendo of “America being in decline”, and that is the insane desire to have a military confrontation with Russia over its invasion of Crimea.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: The truth of the matter is that the world has always been messy…. And what the United States has consistently been able to do, we continue to be able to do…is to mobilize the international community around a set of principles and norms…. And, where our own self defense may not be involved, we may not act militarily—that does not mean we don’t steadily push against those forces which would violate those principles and ideas we care about. So, yes, you’re right, Syria…the Syrian Civil War is not solved…and yet, Syria’s never been more isolated…. With respect to the situation in the Ukraine…we have not gone to war with Russia…I think there’s a significant precedent to that…in the past.
As O’Donnel pointed out, there has been a long line of Presidents, starting with Dwight D. Eisenhower through George W. Bush, who have not gone to war with Russia. The President continued:
PRESIDENT OBAMA: The point is that…there are always going to be bad things that happen around the world and the United States is the most powerful nation in the world—understandably is look to for solutions to those problems…. There are going to be moments where…military action is appropriate. There are going to be sometimes where that’s not in the interest—national security interest—of the United States, or some of our partners, but that doesn’t mean we’re not going to continue to make the effort or speak clearly about what we think is right and wrong and that’s what we’ve done.
This is the kind of individual I want leading this nation, not the individual who said this:
Mr. President, The only thing that can stop a bad guy with a nuke is a good guy with a nuke — Sarah Palin