This doesn't quite work. We'll use it anyhow.
The college boy shows his parents his report card – five F's and a D – and explains he's been spending all his time on one subject.
The student is Obama, and the D is on his foreign policy. And the reason it doesn't work is because America's foreign policy doesn't deserve a grade as high as D! Yet those issue-bristling experts on TV say things like, "The White House feels pretty good about its foreign policy successes, and they'll be going with that real big during the campaign." The fact that nobody jumps those experts and lays them out upon the studio floor is a tribute to American civility.
Let's invoke the classic Reagan tape-measure – "Are you better off than you were four years ago?" – and shift it from the personal to foreign policy. Does America have more or fewer friends in the world than we had four years ago? Is America more beloved by our allies and more respected by our enemies than we were four years ago? Is America safer than it was four years ago? Are American interests abroad more secure than they were four years ago? Is democracy stronger than it was four years ago? Is America's control of world developments stronger or weaker than it was four years ago?
Can anyone except Press Secretary Jay Carney tell me what features of the Obama-Clinton foreign policy the White House is so proud of? And, don't forget, Jay does it for money; he does it haltingly, painfully and deserves a bonus each time he gets the words out.
Finally, is there anybody who really feels like fighting his way up and out of the deep hole unto which those questions consign American foreign policy? What can such a person say?
Comic Mort Sahl used to ask his audience, "Is there anybody I haven't offended?" On an unfunny note, is there an American ally anywhere un-alienated by this administration? Or, an enemy un-appeased? Why does your needle go straightaway to Israel? What about Obama returning the gift-bust of Churchill to the British and the forcing of Canada to divert its oil sales to Communist China?
Can you believe we joked and complained when American power and credibility kept Western Europe living in freedom, Eastern Europe living in hope (eventually fulfilled!) and the Soviet Union successfully deterred from advancing one inch beyond its Yalta-gains after World War II? (In fact, President Truman's shrewd and opportunistic moves even rolled back those Soviet gains, enlisting Tito's Yugoslavia as "the one Communist country on our side"!) You don't get that kind of success by leading from behind. You've seen the advertisements for sending hundreds of "blast fax" messages to every member of Congress at a vastly reduced rate. Looking back at those "good old days" of American foreign policy, I'd love to blast my personal apology for every word of criticism I've ever leveled at America's foreign policy carpenters from Dean Acheson through George Schultz.
Did democracy gain one country in the "Arab Spring"? Has Iran renounced its nuclear ambitions and intentions? We even failed to give away food to a starving North Korea. Remember that they fell off their good-behavior wagon a few hours after agreeing not to? Norwegians can look at a Syrian dictator slaughtering thousands of his own people without feeling personal or national shame. So can Austrians, Danes, Bulgarians, Paraguayans and many others. Americans cannot. I personally feel that shame, but I have no evidence my president or secretary of state shares that shame.
In 2009 Iranians rose up in anger against their Mullah-masters. The crowds were chanting a rhyme in Farsi meaning, "Obama, are you on our side or not?" All they wanted was a word of moral encouragement from our president. They didn't get it.
Israel, a democracy in a neighborhood crowded with dictatorships, is off-balance. They're quite accustomed to terrorist and military attacks from those hostile neighbors. Israel is totally unaccustomed to hostility from the president of the United States; not to mention "sabotage-by-leak" from Washington undercutting Israel's attempts to remove the threat of nuclear annihilation by Iran.
Saudi Arabia couldn't survive without American guarantees and military aid. Yet Washington seems powerless to stem the Wahabist riptide of jihad and anti-Semitism from the Saudis. How about one sharp note to Fidel Castro, warning that remittances from Cuban-Americans to their loved ones in that Stalinist satrapy will continue when they free Alan Gross, wasting away in a Cuban jail for bringing cell phones and Internet access to Cuba's small Jewish community? Maybe after the election!
What are those who admire this president's foreign policy so proud of? Maybe that all our embassies have running water? Or that he kept us out of Northern Ireland?
If we must use the "college grades" analogy on this administration's foreign policy, give me the one about the student who storms up to the professor and says, "I don't think I deserve a zero on this exam!"
"Neither do I," replies the professor, "but it's the lowest grade I'm allowed to give."