WSJ Notable & Quotable

Leon Wieseltier writing in the June 9 issue of the New Republic:

The president was in Los Angeles to accept an award from the Shoah Foundation. “In the face of acts of inhumanity, President Obama has not stood by,” Steven Spielberg foolishly declared when he presented the award.

In the president’s remarks, you can track his decline from moral largeness into historical smallness: “Every day when I wake up, and I think about the 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—and having to think through what levers, what power do we have at any given moment, I think drop by drop by drop, that we can erode and wear down these forces that are so destructive.”

He begins exquisitely and ends pusillanimously. He wants big emotions but not big actions. And what do people do who wish to emote but not to act?

They tell stories. Instead of using American power, whose magnitude the president is anyway unclear about “at any given moment,” he mawkishly proposed to assist Assad’s millions of victims “by keeping memories alive, by telling stories, by hearing these stories,” and in this way “we can do our part.”

This credible threat of a barrage of American narrativity will no doubt bring Assad to his knees.

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