As a young reporter, I once expressed shock at how routinely and reflexively government officials lied to the press. A savvy newspaper vet who overheard me just smiled and told me not to take it personally.
“Why shouldn’t they lie to you?” the late, great Murray Kempton asked. “They lie to themselves all the time.”
His observation came back to me as I read about President Obama’s trip to Asia. He’s going, the White House says, to tell our allies face to face that America is committed more than ever to their security and prosperity.
In ordinary times, the trip and the promise would mean a great deal to the Japanese, South Koreans and Filipinos nervous about trade and China’s aggressive military moves. But these are not ordinary times and Barack Obama is no ordinary president.
Consider that it’s been three years since Obama first declared a “pivot” to Asia as part of a strategic rebalancing of American interests, but the promise proved hollow. Asia is not alone in feeling misled.
Ask the Syrians about Obama’s promise to act if their government crossed his “red line” and used chemical weapons. Or ask Israelis, Saudis, Jordanians and others in the Mideast about Obama’s pledge that America would never allow Iran to get a nuclear weapon. Or ask Ukrainians about his pledge that we will stand with them as they fight for democracy against Vladimir Putin.