Know When to Fold 'Em

Barack Obama reportedly takes pride in his skill as a card player. Poker is the prime game of politics and politicians. The president's record suggests that he is something less than its master. The list of those who have fleeced him is a long and varied one. It includes: the Republican Congressional leadership (habitually); the Wall Street barons; Big Pharma; the Intelligence chiefs; Robert Gates; David Petraeus; Leon Panetta; Bibi Netanyahu (numerous occasions); King Abdullah (Saudi Arabia); Hamid Karzai; General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi; Recep Tayyip Erdogan; and Bashar Assad. Indeed, there is only one group of players whom he beats regularly -- the "liberals" whose gambling instincts have been honed in endless games of rainy-day Scrabble.

So, some advice on how to raise his game is in order. The popular country-and-western ballad The Gambler can serve as a rich source of pithy poker axioms.

"Know when to hold 'em; know when to fold 'em."

Application: cut your losses in Afghanistan and stop feeding the pot you can't possibly win. Same for Yemen.

"Never count your winnings while you're still sitting at the table. There'll be time enough for countin' when the dealing's done."

Application: premature celebration of the Kiev putsch, and of Gaddafi's ouster

"Every hand's a winner; every hand's a loser."

Application: it's not your assets alone that will determine the outcome, but also what cards the other side holds and how he plays them. E.g.: Iran; Syria; ISIL; Putin

"Every gambler knows that the secret to survivin' is knowin' what to throw away and knowing what to keep."

Application: weeding out Obama's inept and amateurish foreign policy team

"Recognize when you're out of aces."

Application: Iraq

"Know when to walk away, and when to run away."

Application: the "war on terror;" "the war on drugs"

If the president doesn't take to heart these axioms, he'll surely find himself farther down the track on a train to nowhere. Call that "breaking even" if you wish -- but better to level with the American people that it now is the measure of success.

What of Chess? Too late for that with only two years to go; anyway, the man's natural aptitude is for Solitaire.