The photograph above has that unsettling look of familiarity: a president on the deck of an American aircraft carrier. After George W. Bush's colossal "Mission Accomplished" miscalculation broadcast to the world on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln on May 1, 2003 (when Bush declared the Iraq war essentially over and won), what president would risk even hinting at a similar iconography?
Why, Hamid Karzai is who. The Afghan president, who wields little authority, enjoys even less respect and has become synonymous with corruption in his own land, may have been seeking a bit of power by osmosis by paying the USS Theodore Roosevelt a visit in December, ostensibly to observe how the aircraft carrier operates from the Gulf of Oman, where many air strikes against Afghanistan originate. Unlike Bush, Karzai didn't make believe that he was landing his own plane on the deck of the carrier, and unlike Bush, he didn't have a large clapping audience and a battery of television cameras to broadcast whatever message he may have had in mind--that he was concerned about the mounting civilian casualties resulting from American air strikes and that he was doing something about them.
What he was doing, exactly, other than enjoying a fancy tour of fancy hardware at sea, wasn't clear, which left him looking less like Bush and more like Michael Dukakis.
The Times today made the point: "President Obama intends to adopt a tougher line toward Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, as part of a new American approach to Afghanistan that will put more emphasis on waging war than on development, senior administration officials said Tuesday. Mr. Karzai is now seen as a potential impediment to American goals in Afghanistan, the officials said, because corruption has become rampant in his government, contributing to a flourishing drug trade and the resurgence of the Taliban."
Karzai is facing reelection this year. Don't count on Obama contributing to his reelection fund.