Can there be anyone left who is deceived as to what Barack Obama’s political leanings are? He has made it clear in June 2009 exactly where his sympathies lie, in multiple ways. Of course he supports the intrusive, commerce- and jobs-killing cap-and-trade bill, and the Obamacare health plan that starts out cutting Medicare, and continues the cutting of health care availability from there.
But one of the starkest and least-spinnable pieces of evidence we have received came this weekend, when Obama’s “meddling” in the political affairs of a foreign country became evident. The desperate demonstrations of disenfranchised Iranians for more liberal government could not engage his interest, even to the point of expressing rhetorical support for their cause. The best Obama has done so far is affirm that the Iranian government should not hack the people down in the streets. A correct sentiment, that, and one that we all share – but clearly not the affirmation of the principles of constitutional government, honest and open government, civil rights, and government by the people that America, of all nations, should be making at this juncture; and in explicit support of the Iranian protestors.
Instead, where Obama has chosen to intervene abroad is regarding the hold on power of President Manuel Zelaya Rosales of Honduras, whom I profiled here last week. Zelaya has been trying to get the Honduran constitution amended illegally, by referendum, so that he can remain in power beyond his single, constitutionally-allowed term in office. The national supreme court has ruled his effort illegal, and the legislature concurs. Earlier in June, Zelaya ordered the military to support his referendum by distributing the ballots for it, but the military, acting on the supreme court ruling, and with the backing of the legislature, has refused. This weekend, Zelaya dismissed the chief of the Honduran armed forces, an attempt to remove him as an obstacle, and to ensure that the referendum ballots would be distributed by the deadline of 28 June Zelaya had set. The military instead forcibly removed Zelaya from office, and turned the reins of government over to the legislature, which has elected a successor, Roberto Micheletti, to serve out Zelaya’s term (which ends in January 2010). Zelaya himself has been exiled, and spoke yesterday from Costa Rica.
As previously outlined at The Optimistic Conservative, Zelaya’s attempt to circumvent constitutional procedure in Honduras, and maintain himself in power, has been the subject of grave concern in much of Central America. His approach mirrors that of the left-wing dictators now installed in Venezuela, Bolivia, and Ecuador. So it should probably not surprise us that Obama’s first reaction was not to avow a policy of non-interference, or avoid the appearance of meddling, but to affirm US support of the Zelaya government. As this Wall Street Journal report makes clear, however, Obama’s diplomatic representatives in Honduras have actually been working to avert the removal of Zelaya for weeks. This position has been unpopular with Honduran legislators, who have even spoken out against it in their political assembly.
WSJ reports that Obama is being advised to support the reinstatement of Zelaya, lest Hugo Chavez make political hay of his ouster and depict Central America as being under attack – presumably, one deduces, from the USA. I wonder if it is possible for reasoning to be any more specious than this, since the record is clear that Obama’s embassy tried to avert the removal of Zelaya. Given the demonstrated willingness of national leaders like those of Venezuela and Iran to simply lie about the existence and character of US involvement, a point does come when our policy has to disregard their propaganda campaigns, and concentrate on doing what is best for US interests, and those of our allies.
But it does not appear Obama really needs either this reasoning, or any prompting, to support Zelaya against his own people. We will see in the coming weeks what concrete action he takes, as the UN meets, the Central American nations convene a summit in Nicaragua (which Zelaya will attend as the leader of Honduras), and the Organization of American States continues whatever efforts it has underway to resolve the situation. But I myself have no doubt he will continue to support Zelaya. (See additional reporting on events to date here and here.)
The most likely means by which he will support Zelaya is standing aside to allow Ortega of Nicaragua, and Chavez of Venezuela, to reinstate Zelaya by assisting Zelaya’s adherents in Honduras with arms and cash. Direct involvement, with US personnel or operations, is not necessary to that outcome. But by favoring the restoration of Zelaya, Obama makes it more likely.
The real-world consequences of Obama’s warm overtures to Hugo Chavez, at his first meeting with Latin American leaders, will continue to emerge. We can hope that the democrats of Honduras are able to hold out, as they come under attack from those who want to install a dictator. We can hope that the US Congress may be half as obstructionist about Obama’s support of radical left regimes in Latin America as it was about Reagan’s opposition to them. But what we cannot hope is that Obama himself will at least refrain from intervening on behalf of leftist regimes. It is clear what we can expect of him, and that is what he has already done in Honduras.