Obama again laments limits of presidential power
May 8th, 2014
11:05 AM ET
8 months ago

Obama again laments limits of presidential power

(CNN) – President Barack Obama once again lamented the limits of his power on the world stage, expressing regret in a speech Wednesday night that he was unable to stop recent atrocities against children in Nigeria and Syria.

"I have this remarkable title right now - President of the United States - and yet every day when I wake up, and I think about young girls in Nigeria or children caught up in the conflict in Syria - when there are times in which I want to reach out and save those kids, having to think through what levers, what power do we have at any given moment" Obama said in a speech at the University of Southern California Shoah Foundation's gala in Los Angeles.

"I think, 'drop by drop by drop,' that we can erode and wear down these forces that are so destructive; that we can tell a different story," the President added.

The President's comments appeared to be a continuation of an argument he laid out just days ago on the last leg of his trip to Asia when he defended his more measured, cautious approach to foreign policy. That strategy, Obama said, "avoids errors" and prevents the pitfalls of committing U.S. military forces to too many hot spots around the world.

"That may not always be sexy. That may not always attract a lot of attention, and it doesn't make for good argument on Sunday morning shows," Obama said in the Philippines. "But it avoids errors. You hit singles, you hit doubles; every once in a while we may be able to hit a home run. But we steadily advance the interests of the American people and our partnership with folks around the world."

Critics of the President's remarks in Asia wondered whether Obama was too focused on playing "small ball."

"The world needs strong, effective American leadership as well; for all our mistakes like Iraq, the U.S. is the one nation that still has the power to keep world order," former presidential adviser and CNN political contributor David Gergen wrote in an op-ed on CNN.com following the president's trip to Asia. "But in the twinkle of an eye, we have gone from being indispensable to indisposed."

In his most recent remarks in Los Angeles, at a star-studded event founded by director Steven Spielberg after his film, "Schindler's List" won an Oscar for its depiction of the Holocaust, Obama took note of the modern-day horrors unfolding in Nigeria and Syria.

"We only need to look at today's headlines - the devastation of Syria, the murders and kidnappings in Nigeria, sectarian conflict, the tribal conflicts - to see that we have not yet extinguished man's darkest impulses," Obama said.


Filed under: California • President Obama • Syria
soundoff (49 Responses)
  1. Jim

    Checks and balances, that's a good thing. It prevents a leader from imposing their free will on all of us citizens. That's what prevents us from being a dictatorship. I'm sure Obama wants to do more of what he wants. The problem for him is that the people have a voice in the USA. Believe it or not but the GOP speaks for people too, there is no one voice in America that dictates all power. I'm glad for that.

    May 8, 2014 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  2. George

    Oliar is so arrogant that he does not realize that it was his weakness, lack of foreign policy, apology tour, and choice of Hillary as Sec of State who refused to put the idiot that kidnapped these girls on the terrorist list that ultimately caused this. Or was it Bush?

    May 8, 2014 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  3. LibsHateMe

    Sorry the president finds the Constitution an impediment to his rule.

    May 8, 2014 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  4. slp

    "We only need to look at today's headlines – the devastation of Syria, the murders and kidnappings in Nigeria, sectarian conflict, the tribal conflicts – to see that we have not yet extinguished man's darkest impulses," Obama said.

    It is very rare that I see eye to eye with our current president. Our political views are as far apart as they can possibly get, however, it does touch my heart that he seems genuinely concerned about these children. I don't find that hard to believe because I have always thought that President Obama is a good father to the two beautiful daughters that he has. As for the statement posted above, it is time that we realize that humans are evil by nature and this is a dark world we live in. Evil should always be battled, but we will never totally eliminate it. That being said, I am totally with you, Mr. President. My heart is breaking for these poor children.

    May 8, 2014 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  5. Anonymous

    The best way to take control over a people and control them utterly is to take a little of their freedom at a time, to erode rights by a thousand tiny and almost imperceptible reductions. In this way, the people will not see those rights and freedoms being removed until past the point at which these changes cannot be reversed.”
    ― Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf 1925

    May 8, 2014 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  6. Wake Up People! Many Rivers to cross.....

    Georgie.... Didn't you mean uppity???

    May 8, 2014 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  7. CryBabies

    What does the Constitution have to do with your job Mr. President?

    May 8, 2014 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  8. ProudDem

    It amazes me how some on here blame anything happening in the world on the President. Believe it or not, we do not control everything. That's what he was saying. He wasn't saying that we should. This article has an unfortunate title, seeming to indicate that he wants more power...that isn't what he said.

    May 8, 2014 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  9. tom l

    Wake Up,

    What did George say that would make you think he's racist, because clearly that's what you're implying.

    So a random dude posts something negative about our president and you go that route without any knowledge whatsoever. When are we going to move forward and allow dissent without trying to paint that characterization? Or perhaps you want this current president to be treated differently than any other. It's so sad that this is the conclusion you jump to based on a man's very legitimate beef with our president. Wow.

    May 8, 2014 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  10. Thomas

    @Donna
    There is no strategic national interest at stake in Nigeria. There are no Americans taken hostage. Therefore this is not our problem. After nearly 6 years in office, Obama still doesn't understand what his job is.

    ==========

    The U.S. remains the largest importer of Nigeria's crude oil, accounting for 40% of the country's exports .

    May 8, 2014 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  11. ProudDem

    This needs to be retitled...he was talking about the limits of US power, not presidential.

    May 8, 2014 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  12. Sniffit

    Yeah, you're clearly onto something Gergen...nothing announces to the world and to terrorist states and groups that the US is capable of providing "strong, efficient leadership" and that we're "indispensable" to solving the world's woes like "our top priority is to make him a one term president" and 6+ years of knee-jerk, blanket obstruction, crisis manufacture, hostage taking and brinksmanship from the GOP/Teatrolls. Without a doubt, every dictator, terror cell leader and extremist on the planet has watched with fear and trepidation in their heart for the past 6+ years as the GOP/Teatrolls have done nothing whatsoever other than try to destroy the duly-elected POTUS and block everything he's tried to do. "Oh no!!!!," they say to themselves, "I must stop doing these bad things or the GOP/Teatrolls will invent irrational conspiracy theories to try to blame my actions on Obama as they gleefully hamstring any response he proposes!!!!!"

    May 8, 2014 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  13. NC

    @Tommy G--Power, prestige and influence you sound like Putin or that North Korean brat. Those that have lost love ones fighting for oil beg to differ with you..

    May 8, 2014 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  14. Harold Read

    "If only I could rule like a Banana Republic President and could do anything I want"

    Don't like your job? Quit.

    May 8, 2014 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  15. Wake Up People! Many Rivers to cross.....

    Oh Proud Dem... They knew exactly what kind of reaction they were going to get from this title....

    May 8, 2014 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  16. 4Truth

    SLP, are you really that naïve? Of course it's terrible what happened to those young girls, but don't be fooled by Obama or any other progressive's crocodile tears. They don't care about people – they use people and want to control and rule over them. If they can fool you with their faux compassion they will. Besides, this stuff happens all over the world every day and why doesn't he intervene in all of them? Because he doesn't care – only when he can get a favorable headline. Please people, smarten up!

    May 8, 2014 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  17. Tommy G

    Dutch/Bad Newz, VA – Take Back the House

    "But in the twinkle of an eye, we have gone from being indispensable to indisposed."
    -------------–
    It's called Smart Power Gergen. This isn't cowboy diplomacy or looking into someone's soul. This is thought out strategy. This is chess, not checkers.
    --–

    Obama has a strategy??? Do tell!! Nobody, absolutely NOBODY has accused Obama of having a strategy. He staggers from one thing to another being lead around by the nose and events. PUTIN has a strategy and is playing chess. Obama is playing tiddly winks with himself and pretending he is playing chess.

    May 8, 2014 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  18. rs

    And why did the Qadhafi regime fall?

    Oh, yeah … in 2011, the U.S. launched a war in Libya and “regime changed” Qadhafi. As then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said:

    We came, we saw, he died.
    ______________________
    Ever hear of Pan Am flight 103, or Lockerbee, Scotland?

    May 8, 2014 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  19. Donna

    Thomas
    @Donna
    There is no strategic national interest at stake in Nigeria. There are no Americans taken hostage. Therefore this is not our problem. After nearly 6 years in office, Obama still doesn't understand what his job is.
    ======
    Proof again your a guy posting as a woman .
    No Mother would feel such lack of empathy for those 200 kidnapped girls.
    Air support , satellite and drone intel could find the Boko Brothers and treat them to a BBQ . What's more important is dealing with the Asian bankers that launder there funding .
    -–

    No, I am just not a starry eyed idiot that thinks we can go around the world solving every kidnapping event with our military. That is NOT their job. If Obama wants to offer them assistance from the FBI or other law enforcement then fine. Using our military for something like this shouldn't even be a consideration by a President that knew what he was supposed to be doing.

    May 8, 2014 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  20. Tom l

    Sniffit,
    I'm curious if there is anything that isn't the repubs fault.

    May 8, 2014 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  21. secular integrity

    No George, bush was the guy who fabricated a false Intel report, sending thousands of young patriotic Americans to their death, maimed tens of thousands more, and left office the richest president ever, just like he said he would. That clear it up for you?

    May 8, 2014 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  22. Tom l

    Sniffit,

    So when Harry Reid called Bush a loser and a liar and Nancy Pelosi called Bush a total failure that was perfectly fine and had nothing to do with foreign-policy but now it's all the Republicans fault when it comes to anything that happens with foreign-policy correct? Just checking

    May 8, 2014 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  23. Rudy NYC

    smith posted at 12:45 PM

    @Bigd9749-What a load of bull. There forces in Germany that could have gotten to Libya. It might not have changed the outcome but it was worth a try.
    ---------------------------------
    You're misinformed on several counts. It was about a 5 hour trip from Germany. It was known one hour into the attack that Amb. Stevens was dead. Fighter jets, or most anything else for that matter, would have needed an air tanker for refueling going in, and on the return trip. No tanker aircraft were immediately available.

    Besides, what could fighter jets have done, anyway? Bomb the compound with our people inside of it?

    May 8, 2014 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  24. Donna

    Thomas
    @Donna
    There is no strategic national interest at stake in Nigeria. There are no Americans taken hostage. Therefore this is not our problem. After nearly 6 years in office, Obama still doesn't understand what his job is.
    ==========
    The U.S. remains the largest importer of Nigeria's crude oil, accounting for 40% of the country's exports .
    --

    So how does this kidnapping adversely affect this or threaten its continuance? It doesn't. But it is now interesting that lefty Obama supporters are now using oil as a justification for doing something.

    May 8, 2014 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
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