Hey, Obama: Embrace the Dissidents

Obama risks repeating Gerald Ford's big mistake

By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff

Posted Dec 29, 2009 12:46 PM CST

(Newser) – How can Barack Obama give voice to the voiceless? With a simple photo op, writes William McGurn in the Wall Street Journal. Dissidents under “nasty” governments in China, Iran, Cuba, and elsewhere—thus far dissed by the White House—are wondering: “‘Where is the president of the United States?’” His “eagerness to downplay freedom in his foreign policy” shows a striking resemblance to a former Oval Office occupant: Gerald Ford.

Ford ditched a meeting with a Russian exile, fearing its implications for his relationship with the USSR—but skipping it “made Ford look weak.” While “internal pressures” might make such meetings seem a risk, the fact is that, “By meeting with some brave soul whom others want silenced,” the president “sends a signal that cuts through the fog” and “compels respect from his enemies,” writes McGurn.

President Obama turns to leave the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House after making a statement on the economy, Dec. 14, 2009.   (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
President Ford.   (Getty Images)
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For a man whose whole appeal has been wrapped in powerful imagery, President Obama appears strikingly obtuse about the symbolism of his own actions: e.g., squeezing in a condemnation of Iran before a round of golf. - William McGurn

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