Another Interpretation of Obama’s Honduran Policy

The president’s reaction to the ongoing situation in Honduras can be attributed to little more than political opportunism and carefully crafted image-related strategy

By Robert Wallace
America’s Right

Matt Drudge ran with the headline: “Obama sides with Castro, Chavez,” and from that point on the playbook appeared to be set. Obama opposes the Honduran coup because he likes socialist strong men, and presumably he likes socialist strong men because he has dreams of being a socialist strong man of his own. Sensational, but spurious, connections.

There are two problems with this narrative. In the first place, it omits some relevant facts about the Honduran coup, and in the second place it takes the wrong measure of Obama.

The Coup in Honduras

The coup d’état took place on June 28, 2009 when the Honduran military broke down the door to Honduran President Manuel Zelaya, drove him to the airport in his pajamas, and flew him out of the country. According to the Honduran Constitution, speaker of the parliament Roberto Micheletti was next in the line of presidential succession, and he was sworn in as president by the national congress that day. The coup ended nearly 40 years of democratic rule in Honduras, but many government officials claim that the coup was in fact legal.

The reason behind the coup was that President Zelaya was attempting to grab more power. He had proposed a ballot referendum to modify the Honduran Constitution so that he could seek a second term in office. The Supreme Court, attorney general, legislators, and human-rights ombudsman all agreed that this was unconstitutional, but he ordered the Honduran military to distribute the ballots anyway in order to poll public opinion. The head of the army refused, and so Zelaya fired him and the ballots were apparently distributed after all.

June 28, 2009 was to be the day of the vote.

The problem with the argument in favor of the coup was that it was pre-emptive. Zelaya had not broken the law yet. He had attempted to do things that were ruled unconstitutional, but so has every president, and not just in Honduras. Clearly the Honduran army, supreme court, and legislators were suspicious that, if the poll came back strongly in favor of the change, then Zelaya would try to have the changes implemented after all. That fear seems justifiable, but it’s not adequate basis for a coup. You don’t get to overthrow an elected official because you think he may do something illegal in the future. [Good point. If that were the case, our Congress would have a revolving door. -- Jeff]

It gets worse, however. While the Honduran government claims that the kidnapping of Manuel Zelaya was an arrest, I can find no mention of what criminal statute was broken. Nor is there any indication that charges will be filed or that a trial will take place. What kind of an arrest is that?

Finally, the behavior of the armed forces since seizing control include both violent confrontations with protesters and a clamp down on free speech. At least one radio station was shut down, and transmission of two TV news channels has been halted.

The news that Chavez and Castro immediately supported Zelaya is also misleading. They did support him. But so did the presidents of practically every Central and South American nation including the most conservative (Mexico) and the largest (Brazil). In fact, the Organization of American States–including all 35 independent nations of the Americas and the independent nations of the Caribbean–also issued an ultimatum that Zelaya be placed back in power.

Furthermore, the support of Zelaya is not coming exclusively from the left. It is unanimous throughout the American continents.

Personally, I believe that Zelaya was a corrupt, leftist president and Honduras is almost certainly better off without him. But that doesn’t mean that it’s acceptable to remove him by any means necessary. Conservatives should understand the importance of getting the right result using the right process.

Obama’s Motivations

As I wrote earlier at America’s Right:

The biggest lie of the Obama campaign was the lie that he believed in any principles at all. I saw his promises to the left and right, observed that his history was left, and figured he was a committed lefty going incognito with the help of an obedient press to win the general election. Apparently, Dan Savage and the gay community came to the same conclusion. But it turns out that Obama isn’t a covert ideologue — he’s a man without any true principles at all.

It’s satisfyingly sensationalist to link Obama to socialists, but it’s also spurious. Obama isn’t a genuine socialist, because to be a genuine socialist he’d have to have a consistent ideology.

This doesn’t mean his policies aren’t socialist. Although I’m reluctant to make such an inflammatory comparison, Obama is like Hitler in this particular regard. Hitler took over the National Socialist Party, but he never cared about political or economic theory at all. He wasn’t interested in the plight of the working class. He was interested in power. And socialism–with its emphasis on collectivism and state control of industry–is more amenable to the kind of power Hitler craved than classical liberalism.

Obama’s support for socialist policies is undoubtedly similar. It’s not about the policies themselves. Socialism is merely a vehicle for advancing government power.

Given this understanding of Obama, it is easy to see why he came out so quickly against Honduras and so slowly against Iran and North Korea.

Obama’s strength is his image, and his image is one of a non-partisan, populist, decisive leader. But leadership involves risk. Obama hedges that risk by making sweeping, stirring speeches and then leaving the details of policy making to others. He lets Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid do the work of writing his bills and shepherding them through the legislature. If they fail, it’s not Obama’s fault. If they succeed, then he’s responsible after all. Look, after all, at the way he took credit for operations in Iraq after he was among Democrats who worked hard to present every available obstacle to such a result.

Iran and North Korea are much, much too risky for Obama to take a direct leadership role. They are risky both in the broad sense of posing a threat to American security, but more importantly they are risky to Obama’s credibility. Ever since he disastrously claimed he’d meet foreign leaders “without precondition,” Obama’s foreign policy has been a vulnerable spot. He has invested a tremendous amount of image-crafting to protect this weakness. From the Cairo speech to the Iranian New Years’ greeting to the Blue Mosque speech to endless rhetoric about a new era in American diplomacy, he has a lot riding on how Iran and North Korea turn out. His hedge in those cases is multilateralism. As long as Obama has a hefty cadre of foreign leaders with him, he will always be able to do damage control to his credibility if something blows up — figuratively or literally. If he steps out alone, however, then he alone could take the blame if something goes wrong.

So, when the Iranian protests broke out, Obama waited days to ratchet his rhetoric up, just as when the AIG fiasco became public, he kept his silence for the first couple of days. He had to test the political winds and consult with his image experts before taking a position.

But Honduras is a different matter altogether. Obama has no vested political interest in the nation, and it is too small to present a serious security risk. In addition, there’s already overwhelming consensus in support of Zelaya. So there’s very little downside to making clear, decisive statements. On the other hand, the story was in the headlines and so Obama had a great opportunity to come out in front and look like a bold leader. In short: great upside.

That is the real reason for his strong comments about Honduras. He’s not coming to the aid of his ideological allies. He is merely engaging in political opportunism. He saw a great risk-and-reward proposition, and he took it.

—————
Robert Wallace has been writing for America’s Right since December 2008

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Comments

  1. Gail B says:

    I'm impressed with your interpretation of Obama/Soetoro's thinking.

    You certainly have him pegged, Robert!

    Thanks.

  2. Anonymous says:

    the govt. positon on this affair is just plain INDECENT & UNDEMOCRATIC

    http://www.miamiherald.com/opinion/other-views/story/1120408.html

    very good & clear article

  3. Gail B says:

    Anonymous at 8:03 p.m.–

    YOU define ignorance! Robert's statement was a BLANKET statement, to cover all bases, including violence.

    Dumb cluck!

  4. Anonymous says:

    Unfortunately, we will be going through this process in 2016. ACORN (now COI.. Community Organizing International) will ensure another round of voter fraud in 2012 from the information gathered by their collection of data in the 2010 census to keep the usurper in 'office'.

    Obama and his socialists… they couldn't win the decades old "War on Poverty" (which was really a ruse to begin with) and now that they have all three branches of government, the war has been exposed as it was really meant to be which was a War on Success.

    Germany, Hungary and France have it right. Hopefully WE will learn in time for the 2010 elections, and we can get an electorate that will DEMAND accountability.

  5. Anonymous says:

    ..of what we are suffering today, the seeds were sow back in the cold war when american colleges and universities were sieves for disguised and comouflaged communists, their task was to poison generations and generations of americans,the real terror within, the real upside down of our institution, our values, our culture,
    the premeditation of impoverishment of our nation(then easly manipulated) and then stablishment of the apparatchik
    it is crazy, right now, there are more communists in usa than in what was called the soviet union

  6. Anonymous says:

    The author argues the removal of Zelaya was illegal because it was preemptive; he had, as of yet, not broken any law.

    I should point out that none of us have even an inkling of what Honduran law actually says, but dwell too long on that would only ruin our fun.

    Instead, let me suggest that every single action he took in advance of the balloting to take place on 6/28 was in violation of the constitution and court order. Strictly speaking, in the U.S., there is no penalty for violating the Constitution. A court order, however, is another thing altogether.

    Let me further pont that (at least under U.S. law) you don't have to COMPLETE your crime to be tried, convicted, hanged, etc. Conspiring, attempting, and other -ings are sufficient. Zelaya had done all of these.

    Lastly, while I would have rather seen his ouster be the result of some procedure (trial? impeachment? hearing?), I must defer to the Central American sense of paranoia when it comes to dictator. There does come a time when it's too late to solve the problem. Honduras, thankfully, will not have to face that eventuality. Instead, come November, the citizenry will head to the polls and elect their president.

    Who can argue with that?

  7. Anonymous says:

    "his image is one of a non-partisan, populist, decisive leader"

    decisive? really? where do you get that?

  8. elspeth says:

    Jeff:

    Could you do a post on all voters taking a companion along to vote — someone who normally doesn't vote?

    Have we considered how getting the non-voters in on the voting would affect any "influence" from ACORN?

    I don't know the numbers, but isn't there always a large number of people who just don't bother? (I know a few!)

    If unanticipated, efforts that result in questionable outcomes would be futile.

    (Hey, I'm trying to be as politically correct as possible!)

    elspeth

    PS – I just caught myself using AR as my confirmation! Saw an AP story, but always seek confirmation. I've come to rely on you, Jeff Schreiber, and your little venting blog. Thanks for all you do and for maintaining some sanity! I feel like Alice falling down the rabbit hole!

  9. suek says:

    The person who posted this comment may not know what he's talking about – or maybe he does. If someone wants to check it out, it's specific enough to do so.

    Link to comment:
    http://www.bookwormroom.com/2009/06/29/i-changed-my-mind-about-blogging-today/#comment-54169

    "Some of the reasons why we are saying this was not a coup, and why the removal of Chavez’ toadie Zelaya was in defense of the Honduran Constitution:

    First, some direct info about their Constitution. Regardless of whether any of these articles are good ideas, they do exist:

    -Article 42 strips citizenship rights from those who call for the re-election or continuing (beyond the term) of the President of the Republic.

    - Article 239 not only prohibits the re-election of a President of the Republic, but calls for the immediate removal from public office and disqualification from any political office for 10 years any person who calls for a change in that prohibition.

    - Article 373 gives the power to amend the Constitution solely to the National Congress, with no role for any “referendum”.

    - Article 374 prohibits any amendments to the prohibition of a multi-term President of the Republic.

    - Title VII, with two chapters, outlines the process of amending the constitution and sets forth the principle of constitutional inviolability. The constitution may be amended by the National Congress after a two-thirds vote of all its members in two consecutive regular annual sessions.

    Now, what happened:
    - Zelaya said he wanted a referendum on whether the people wanted him to seek a second term. Hugo Chavez had his ballots all printed up in Venezuela and ready to go, and shipped them to Honduras. What a nice guy!
    - The military has the responsibility for storing, protecting, distributing, and managing all ballots in any vote of any sort. They did so and protected the ballots.
    - The Legislature and the Supreme Court said No, no referendum.
    - The leader of the military told Zelaya he would obey the Supreme Court, as required by the Constitution.
    - Zelaya fired him
    - The Supreme Court ordered him reinstated 5-0.
    - Zelaya refused

    At this point we now have a genuine Constitutional Crisis in Honduras. Who is precipitating it? Clearly Zelaya – El Idiota Chavista.

    - Note that last Tuesday the Congress passed a law preventing the holding of referendums or plebiscites 180 days before or after general elections. Congress has also named a commission to investigate Zelaya.
    - Zelaya’s mob stormed the military garrison where the ballots were being held and took them, and began their own distribution of the ballots, in direct violation of the law.
    - The Supreme Court ordered Zelaya was in violation of the Constitution and, as expected. The Attorney General then requested that Congress oust Zelaya.
    - The morning before the referendum, the military took Zelaya into custody.
    - During the day, they flew him to Costa Rica. The legislature agreed to appoint an interim President prior to the official elections, which will occur soon."

    Assuming his quotes of the various articles are accurate, Zelaya did in fact break the law. It was _not_ a coup.

  10. Robert Wallace says:

    Thanks, Gail!

    I've read some translations of the Honduran Constitution and – from my non-expert point of view – Zelaya did not seem to be in clear violation of them.

    But I could be wrong.

    Being wrong about the details of the coup, however, wouldn't invalidate my main point. Regardless of whether or not the coup is justified, Obama's reasons for opposing it don't change.

    He's in it for political opportunism, not ideological solidarity. *That* is the central point of my post.

  11. Anonymous says:

    "But that doesn’t mean that it’s acceptable to remove him by any means necessary."

    And our founding father's should have been hung for treason.

    Mr. Given's you define asinine or more appropriately, ignorance.

  12. sharon says:

    Great article Robert, and all we need to know about this guy..

    I truly believe he has something up his sleeve, made easier with a compliant media. This guy has no stopping point. Generally even your most low life politician will STOP because they are afraid of re election. Not this guy…. He aint goin anywhere….

  13. Anonymous says:

    Gail,

    Laughable. I am not sure you even know what ignorant means.

    Think about it… Don't "blanket statements" tend to wreak of ignorance?

    You should just tell Robert you have a 'thing' for him.

    cluck cluck.

    Please, tell me, how did I "define" ignorance?

    Ignorance is not stating someone has "yet" to break the law and then stating without a doubt (belief) they are corrupt in the same article. (hypocrisy)

    Ignorance is claiming a "stretch" a couple of days ago and then imposing an alternate view whereby the premise is flawed and myopic with complete disregard of world history.

    Although I gladly give kudos to recognizing the similarities to Hitler's rise to power, 'O' really has took this stand on Honduras, as a usurper, so as to not appear to be hypocritical. He has made a career of using the guise of "law" interpretation to gain his power. Even 'O' knows when to throw rocks in his glass house.

    bawk bawk.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Robert, by the way, "classical liberalism" also known as 19th Century liberalism, is VASTLY different than MODERN liberalism. Watch out how you use the term please.

  15. JEFF SCHREIBER says:

    Stogie said…

    The author of this article is reckless in describing Zelaya's removal as a "coup." Not even Hillary Clinton has referred to it as such, and by using that description he slanders the country of Honduras and gives credibility to the Left's erroneous position

    Zelaya had ballots printed up in Venezuela, in violation of the law; his supporters broke into government offices to retrieve the ballots after they had been confiscated. That was also breaking the law.

    I happen to agree. After all, my assessment of the situation, published here yesterday, is quite different.

    Check it out:

    http://www.americasright.com/2009/06/honduran-coup-provides-glimpse-of.html

    However, Robert and I often don't exactly agree on everything — but our core beliefs are largely the same. For that reason and more, I always welcome different perspectives here.

    – Jeff

  16. Anonymous says:

    "However, Robert and I often don't exactly agree on everything — but our core beliefs are largely the same. For that reason and more, I always welcome different perspectives here."

    A lot of us don't always agree with Robert either. Sometimes he's got fantastic things to say which are dead on and insightful. However, as in his points regarding the Honduras situation, he continues to defend his positions even though other posters have present truthful and factual evidence to the contrary (Articles regarding legality in the Honduran Constitution.)

    Robert, if you're reading this, you're a good man. Sorry for any previous harshness and rudely derogatory comments both on here and in the Iranian protester blog a while back.

  17. tm says:

    Pertinet question. What if G.W. Bush said " I want a third term, I'm just going to have a third term" would the Chinese and the U.N. threaten to show up and forcibly reinstate him?
    Zero is "supposed" to be this great constitutional scholar, and statesman? This idiot is no statesman, he is the worst kind of "Statist".
    Maybe somebody – should tell him since he obviously cannot read for himself the honduran constitution, better yet – why doesn;t he just stay out of it – what's next his big allied with Chavez, Castro, and Ortega forces. Our troops with them? This is sick.
    Mr. Zero was raised a marxist, and communist.
    Zero's friends were Frank Marshall Davis, Bill Ayers, and Jeremiah Wright…what do all these allies have in common: They Hate America. Go Figure.

    Support Honduran freedom fighters fighting communism

  18. Stogie says:

    The author of this article is reckless in describing Zelaya's removal as a "coup." Not even Hillary Clinton has referred to it as such, and by using that description he slanders the country of Honduras and gives credibility to the Left's erroneous position

    Zelaya had ballots printed up in Venezuela, in violation of the law; his supporters broke into government offices to retrieve the ballots after they had been confiscated. That was also breaking the law.

  19. Anonymous says:

    More Obama apologetics from our sleeping CINO.
    READ more before he posts. The Honduran Constitution has several Articles on this point.

    Here's another blogger's view on the point.

    http://street-called-straight.blogspot.com/2009/06/what-honduran-constitution-states-and.html

    -Article 42 strips citizenship rights from those who call for the re-election or continuing (beyond the term) of the President of the Republic.

    - Article 239 not only prohibits the re-election of a President of the Republic, but calls for the immediate removal from public office and disqualification from any political office for 10 years any person who calls for a change in that prohibition.

    - Article 373 gives the power to amend the Constitution solely to the National Congress, with no role for any “referendum”.

    - Article 374 prohibits any amendments to the prohibition of a multi-term President of the Republic.

  20. Anonymous says:

    "I've read some translations of the Honduran Constitution and – from my non-expert point of view – Zelaya did not SEEM to be in clear violation of them.

    But I COULD be wrong."

    lol. This after a previous poster discussed the Honduran constitution.

    It's not that it didn't SEEM that Zelaya violating the law or that you COULD be wrong… He DID violate their Constitution (validated by the Honduran Supreme Court which interprets the law) and you ARE Wrong.

    You're new nickname will be "Gibby" after Robert Gibbs.

  21. Anonymous says:

    Charles Krauthammer on Honduras: Obama is Wrong.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vxUGYOBrcTw

  22. Rix says:

    While I sharply disagree with the author on legality of the events in Honduras, I find myself in agreement with his view on Obama as an opportunist rather than sworn radical. It is a great fault of the American conservatives that radicalism pays. If more college professors were Republicans and unions were not allowed to wield as much power, we would possibly have a Black conservative President today.

  23. Robert Wallace says:

    The point of my piece was to analyze Obama's actions in light of his character, and in focusing on that I didn't spend as much attention researching the Honduran events as I should have.

    Judged on the comments that the article has received so far I was wrong about the legality of the Honduran military's expulsion of Zelaya.

    My bads.

    I stand behind the central point of my article, however. As Rix put it: "Obama [is] an opportunist rather than sworn radical."

    Understanding your enemy is critcal to defeating him, and *that* was at the heart of my post.

  24. Gail B says:

    Anonymous at 8:03-

    I apologize for calling you a dumb cluck. That was not nice.

  25. Anonymous says:

    "Every difference of opinion is not a difference of principle. We have called by different names brethren of the same principle."

    Thomas Jefferson, First Inaugural Address, March 4, 1801

  26. DR LAURA says:

    Smells like we're being nice to each other in here. Do I have to find another blog? :D

  27. MINNESOTA PHATS says:

    Photo: Watch me sink Freedom in the corner pocket.

  28. Dave Crandall says:

    Jeff, I hope that both you and Robert post an updated correction to this blog entry.

    The premise that it is based on is the 'leftist talking' point that the so-called 'coup' was 'illegal'.

    It was not. The Honduran Constitution had already been violated, and their Supreme Court had already ruled. This was entirely legal.

    With the fall of the premise, the rest of the blog fails.

    http://www.atomicbobs.com/index.php?mode=read&id=423891

    http://www.examiner.com/x-7812-DC-SCOTUS-Examiner~y2009m7d7-Obama-Universal-Principle-Gives-Presidents-the-Right-to-Keep-Ruling-Even-If-They-Violate-the-Law

    Sincerely,
    Dave Crandall

    Above all else in Justice – it must be based on Truth.

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