Alter: Obama 'A Reluctant Warrior,' Not Cowboy Like Bush

Of all the Obama sycophants in the press, could the president possibly have a more abject apologist than Jonathan Alter?

The MNSBC analyst gave a groveling demonstration of his devotion in an interview with Willie Geist, guest-hosting on The Daily Rundown this morning.  Beyond the predictable swipes at W, notable was the essential incoherence of Alter's defense of PBO's foreign policy.  At one point, as you'll see, Alter contradicts himself in the very same breath.

Meanwhile, Geist, best known as the amiable host of Way Too Early and sidekick on Morning Joe, showed that he has a serious side, putting Alter on the spot with a couple incisive observations.

View video after the jump.


Watch the video and note how Alter contradicts himself.  At one point he contrasts W's  conducting "multilateralism for appearances" with Obama's "genuine multilateralism" in Libya.  But in the same breath he admits that "most of the weapons are being fired by the Americans" and that putting the French and others out front is essentially an Obama-administration show.

Note also Willie's observation that the fact that other countries support a given action doesn't make it right.  Too true.  If France and Britain jumped off the Empire State Building . . .  So multilateralism makes no sense as a policy per se.   And when pressed as to why Obama isn't pursuing in Yemen and Bahrain the same policy as in Libya, Alter alters course yet again, claiming Obama is a "pragmatist," unconcerned with "applying a consistent line."   By the end of the interview, poor Jonathan had twisted himself in knots.  The only thing that seemed straight was his utter devotion to defending the president.

JONATHAN ALTER: This is the hand he's been dealt by hisotry.  He's a reluctant warrior.  So it's not as if he's converted to being a cowboy.  So I think people recognize the difference between him and former Pres. Bush.         

WILLIE GEIST: He inherited Iraq and Afghanistan.  He didn't inherit Libya.  This is a choice he made with the UN. What kind of precedent is he setting?  Are we beginning to see an Obama Doctrine where if there's a humanitarian crisis in the world, the United States will intervene?

ALTER: I think we are beginning to see an Obama Doctrine, but I think it's less focused on humanitarianism than it is on multilateralism, which is a big $50 word that doesn't sound so good on television but it basically means that we work together with our allies and we don't go charging off alone.  But right now it is a very uncomfortable transition from what was sort of multilateralism for appearances, which is the way it was mostly handled under Bush, to genuine multilateralism, where the president doesn't even announce the beginning of hostilities.  It's announced by the French.  And even though most of the weapons are being fired by Americans, at the beginning, in the first 48 hours, they didn't want to admit that, so Hillary Clinton for instance referred to "them, they, others" enforcing Resolution 1973 from the Security Council rather than us being the ones who were taking the lead.

GEIST: Well, it's good to have cover from the French and British, but it doesn't necessarily mean that what your doing is the right thing to do.  So we go into Libya, trying to protect the opposition, protect the rebels, protect citizens who are being slaughtered by Khaddafi.  And now the question is being asked a lot right now, why not do the same in Yemen, where 52 protesters were shot in the street on Friday; why not do it in Bahrain, were people were being shot in the street.  Can you explain the distinc tion there, and how it's a little bit of selective humanitarianism  --

ALTER: -- situational multilateralism.

GEIST: Exactly.

ALTER: Well, I think the president is applying a case-by-case approach.  So in Bahrain, for instance, where if the rebels had taken charge it would have been a real advantage for Iran, we had major strategic interests at play.  And when the Saudia troops went into Bahrain we winked and said OK.  In Yemen, where the government has been effective in--not so effective but at least is trying to fight al Qaeda--we weren't so anxious to see the rebels succeed, although the news today is that they are likely to succeed in Yemen.  So each one of these cases is a little bit different.  And the president is a pragmatist, and he's not interested in applying a consistent line.

Mark Finkelstein
Mark Finkelstein is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.