Most presidencies have a number of moments that define them, that reveal the essence of both the man and his administration.
Barack Hussein Obama has had a number of these moments already. But the current Wikileaks scandal has to be a true 'the emperor has no clothes' moment...a truly revealing portrait of a truly failed and impotent presidency.
Here we have the spectacle of a foreign organization not only openly publishing illegally obtained, highly classified documents that strain relations with our allies, compromise our diplomats and our intel and endanger our troops and operatives in the field but taunting us by giving us advance notice of their intent to do so.
Our response to what amounted to a threat to our national security? Did we get the CIA involved to take out the perpetrators? Did we even warn them that if they even thought about publishing this stuff and didn't return it immediately, there would be serious consequences?
No,we had our State Department's lawyer Howard Koh write a letter essentially saying 'this was really nasty of you, so please give us our stuff back, OK?'
And then President Obama went off to take care of some important things..play a little basketball and pardon a couple of turkeys.
The publishing of the Wikileaks documents does deep damage to American interests far beyond what was actually revealed. Our allies and US friendly assets among our enemies are going to think twice about cooperating with us, since the confidentiality of that cooperation is no longer guaranteed. Certainly no Arab government and possibly Israel are going to risk speaking openly and bluntly to us about security matters in the future. And our diplomats and agents abroad are also going to more constrained about what they tell Washington, since it could come back to compromise their missions or even get them killed.
In view of that, President Obama's public statement on the matter is highly illuminating:
"President Obama supports responsible, accountable, and open government at home and around the world, but this reckless and dangerous action runs counter to that goal. By releasing stolen and classified documents, Wikileaks has put at risk not only the cause of human rights but also the lives and work of these individuals. We condemn in the strongest terms the unauthorized disclosure of classified documents and sensitive national security information. "
Well...that'll teach 'em, won't it? Although I have to chuckle a bit at the line about how the Obama Administration supports 'responsible, accountable, and open government'. The American people certainly haven't seen anything like that here.
Still, it's worth looking at how puerile and ineffectual the White House's response to this attack - and I can't really refer to it any other way. The two Wikileaks episodes have shown us to be a world power in name only, governed by an administration who won't even respond forcefully to our country's enemies.
That's evident not only from how we've handled the leaks themselves, but from the actual Wikileaks revelations, especially the ones dealing with our non-policy on Iran.
Are we to believe that the entire resources of the US government were unable to track down Julian Assange and the Wikileaks people, recover the data and arrest and prosecute them?
There are really only two possibilities, and neither of them is pleasant to contemplate. Either the Obama Administration really doesn't know quite how to handle this or deep down, the president actually approves of the US being taken down a peg and is making a kabuki protest. That certainly would jibe with a number of other things the Administration has done.
In either case, what we have is a sitting President of the United States of America who has allowed a major attack on US Security to go essentially unchallenged. And there will be consequences.