Where leading from behind leads

Rep. Tom Price Vice Chairman, House Committee on the Budget
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By now, the American people are well aware of how weak and disappointing President Obama’s failed policies and domestic priorities have left the American economy. Events of the past week highlight how weak and incoherent the president’s foreign policy has been — particularly with our tremendous challenges in the Middle East.

Prior to the recent attacks and demonstrations across the Middle East, President Obama’s “lead from behind” diplomacy had already made America’s presence on the world stage appear weaker. Into that void of leadership have stepped other nations, including Russia and China. Perhaps most startling, however, has been President Obama’s willingness to neglect the relationship with our critical ally, Israel.

With the Israeli people facing the potential of an existential threat from a nuclear Iran, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently requested a meeting with President Obama. The White House declined the request because the president apparently did not have time in his schedule for a face-to-face talk with our most crucial ally in a region of the world beset by violence and open conflict. It looks like this will be Netanyahu’s first visit to America as prime minister where he won’t meet with our president.

Within hours of that insult to the Israeli people — as though to underscore the unrest of the region — American interests came under fire in Cairo, Egypt and Benghazi, Libya. The latter resulted in the death of four Americans, including our ambassador to Libya. Violence soon spread across the Middle East and North Africa, with riots in more than a dozen cities.

The American people and the world have watched in horror as these events have unfolded, yearning desperately for decisive and steadfast leadership from our commander in chief. But they have found little reassurance in the mixed messages and unclear priorities exemplified by this administration.

Conflicting reports from various agencies and individuals within the Obama administration have left America and its allies wondering about our standing in the world. What is our Middle East policy? Is Egypt an ally? Is Israel still our closest ally in the Middle East? What will be our military capability to address these and future threats? What is the line past which Iran must not step?

It is horrifying to learn that even on the day after our own ambassador to Libya was killed, President Obama failed to attend his daily intelligence briefing. Unfortunately, this does not come as much of a surprise, as the White House has confirmed reports that he has already skipped at least half of them.

Additionally, President Obama has done nothing to avert the dangerous effects of pending sequestration defense cuts that would reduce troop levels and drastically hinder our nation’s ability to defend itself. Congress has proposed a serious alternative to this White House-designed sequestration plan. But for all his talk, and that of his administration, President Obama has failed to engage substantively to avoid this nightmare scenario.

Americans now wait to learn just how badly and where our national defense will suffer at a time when it can be least afforded. After all, terrorists are emboldened not by YouTube videos, but by a weakened American defense. Absent American leadership, the world will only become a far more dangerous place.

President Obama appears unserious about, and uninterested in, leading. He does, however, seem plenty interested in election year politics. Despite the violence in the Middle East, President Obama has not canceled a single campaign event or fundraiser. Even on the evening following the deaths in Benghazi, President Obama jetted off to a fundraiser in Las Vegas. Truly incredible!

Times like these remind us that the paramount goal of our government is to protect the sovereignty and security of our people. President Obama would be wise to understand and abide by such a standard. Our allies — including Israel — and those who might question our resolve must know that America will do all that is necessary to protect our way of life and secure peace. That is the level of leadership needed to ensure our nation remains the most powerful force for the defense of liberty.

Rep. Tom Price serves as the chairman of the House Republican Policy Committee. He is a member of the House Committee on the Budget, as well as the House Committee on Ways and Means.