President Barack Obama speaks in the Rose Garden of the...

President Barack Obama speaks in the Rose Garden of the White House. (Oct. 1, 2013) Credit: Getty Images

If you're the president, you will be tested. It's how you respond that matters. When tested, President Barack Obama has backed down abroad but doubled down at home. Our allies have noticed how his actions testify to his misplaced priorities. With an interim nuclear deal with Iran apparently in view, we should notice too.

Start with the home front. Weeks after the disastrous rollout of Obamacare, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius still has her job. Years after the Operation Fast and Furious fiasco, in which the United States ran guns into Mexico, Attorney General Eric Holder still has his job. At home, it takes a lot to get fired.

Policy is even more telling than personnel. Even as private landowners frack the United States to cheap energy and good jobs, Obama restricts drilling on federal land. Even as Europe retreats from the mirage of green energy, Obama's Environmental Protection Agency wages a war on coal.

The president's job is to "take care that the laws be faithfully executed." Yet Obama is intent on granting amnesty to illegal immigrants

But the same low standards do not apply abroad. Take the administration's attitude toward our intelligence services. When news broke that the United States had tapped German Chancellor Angela Merkel's personal cellphone, the president's immediate response was to deny he knew about it. That's implausible.

It's also irrelevant. When the Soviet Union shot down a U.S. spy plane in 1960, President Dwight Eisenhower tried to deny it. But when the evidence of U.S. spying became irrefutable, Ike acknowledged the truth and took responsibility.

Obama's response implies he is a victim of the incompetence of his staff and the intelligence community. By blaming everyone else, Obama threw them under the bus to save himself. So much for Ike's honorable example of taking responsibility for your subordinates.

The administration is decisive abroad only in one-shot deals, or if U.S. actions can be kept secret. Killing Osama Bin Laden was a one-shot deal. Libya was a one-shot deal that turned out to have embarrassing consequences in Benghazi. Syria was going to be a one-shot deal, but Obama's policy was so poorly conceived that he couldn't get his shot off.

By contrast, Obama liked the drone and spying programs because they were secret. But when they leaked, the administration promised "restraint" on drones and left Secretary of State John Kerry to say that "some of these [NSA] actions have reached too far."

Presidential priorities show more in actions than in words. By his actions, Obama shows he's committed to staying his course at home, but not abroad. Our allies notice that, and it makes them worry because it means the United States is not reliable when the going gets tough.

With Iran, the going has been tough since 1979. The interim deal now foreshadowed with Iran reveals that all its protestations about its nuclear program being for energy were lies. It also shows that Iranians want to keep the program, while obtaining relief from the West's sanctions. If they wanted to go nuke-free, they could do so, no deal required.

Deals with regimes like Iran's cannot be a one-shot arrangement. They require monitoring and continued pressure, and are likely to fail under the best of circumstances. The administration's track record of failing to persevere must have Tehran's mullahs smiling.

But the problem is more fundamental. Obama's policy of backing down abroad and doubling down at home is out of sync with the American system. Under the Constitution, the president is supposed to be energetic abroad, but restrained at home. This president has been the reverse. His approach has served the nation poorly, and in any deal with Iran, it will prove disastrous.Ted R. Bromund is a senior research fellow in The Heritage Foundation's Thatcher Center for Freedom.

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