John Kass: It's 3 a.m., and Obama's phone is ringing
He keeps dragging the Obama White House back to a difficult place.
Putin's military capture of Crimea, a region of Ukraine, is just the latest example. His could be an act of willfulness, or a desperate attempt to stave off Russian decline. But in any case, no sane American would argue for a shooting war over Ukraine. The point is to avoid miscalculations that could lead to one.
It's like that phone call at 3 a.m. to a White House run by an inexperienced leader, that call Hillary Clinton warned America about years ago.
Her devastating 2008 campaign spot of that ringing phone, arguing that Barack Obama was not ready for the call, was profound. And it was profoundly forgotten.
It faded away as America was captured instead by his soaring rhetoric and the messianic politics orchestrated by Obama's mythmakers.
Clinton's campaign was gutted by Obama's expert and cynical use of the race card. The Democratic Party arithmetic made it impossible to win without African-American voters. And she lost them when he said hello.
As Clinton receded, wounded, humiliated by the devastating label of racial insensitivity, the American media grew bored with her. But journalists found a new hobby: placing laurel wreaths upon the head of Mr. Obama.
Vesting a nation's leader with unearned virtues isn't particularly American. The same goes on in the Russian media.
Putin is portrayed at home as man of action, the strongman of Russia who tames bears and conquers other wild beasts, sometimes with his will alone, and sometimes with his shirt on.
But good intelligence services are not run by sentimentalists. These are people of cold mind.
And somewhere in the Kremlin, there must be a dossier on Obama, something a bit more comprehensive than media gushing about his use of symbolism.
What would such a Russian dossier tell Putin about the nature of the man?
It would tell Putin that Obama rose on the wings of an America tired of war.
And that Obama flew skyward, preaching about ethics, and promising hope and change we could believe in, all of it orchestrated brilliantly by David Axelrod, who doubled as the mouthpiece of Chicago's supremely cynical political boss, then-Mayor Richard M. Daley.
Putin already knew that Obama had absolutely no executive experience before taking the most important executive job in the world. And that he charmed his way into the job. America, tired of war and fearful of a collapsing economy, reached for the president from Chicago in the way a drowning man reaches for a chunk of floating wood.
But the Obama dossier would mention what many here have ignored about the president's formative years: Obama challenged power only once.
And when he did so, U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush branded him as not black enough for the South Side. It was a lesson Obama never forgot.