House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) was confronted on Tuesday by MSNBC’s Morning Joe co-host Mike Barnicle who confessed to her his crisis of confidence in President Barack Obama.
“I understand your position within the party. I understand your reluctance to back-seat drive anyone,” Barnicle began. “But there is, as you know, a lot of talk about the President of the United States being kind of remote, kind of difficult to access emotionally, kind of not angry enough.”
Pelosi responded with a series of boilerplate defenses of the administration ranging from the falling unemployment rate, to the reduction of the deficit, to the stock market’s recovery. She did, however, seem unnerved by Barnicle’s question.
“If that’s the impression people have, then communication has to be stepped up,” she conceded.
This all sounds familiar. In fact, the refrain that Obama appears aloof and distant is a recurring theme throughout his presidency. It may simply be a character trait.
But political analysts, who early in Obama’s first term were loath to believe that he did anything that was not perfectly calculated, devoted hours to pondering why Obama seemed so emotionally disengaged from crises.
Amid the crisis resulting from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the summer of 2010, CNN’s John Blake took a stab at theorizing about the motivation for Obama’s collected demeanor:
“If you’ve followed the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster, you’ve heard the complaints that Obama isn’t showing enough emotion,” he wrote. “But scholars say Obama’s critics ignore a lesson from American history: Many white Americans don’t like angry black men.”
“Democrats have been desperate for President Obama to find his inner Bill Clinton – to convey to people that he really gets their anguish and trauma,” observed the Christian Science Monitor’s Linda Feldmann that summer.
“One time, go off!” demanded Obama admirer and director Spike Lee in an interview on CNN. “If there’s any one time to go off, this is it, because this is a disaster.”
Obama heard his supporters’ cries and, in what must have been a moment of non-scripted authenticity, literally told Americans that he was as angry as they were.
During a trip to the southern coast, Obama said at a press conference that he “saw firsthand the anger and frustration felt by our neighbors in the Gulf.”
“It is an anger and frustration that I share as president,” he added. Because you asked.
Obama, now in his second term, may not be as responsive to criticism from his allies as he was in 2010. It may be worth a shot, though. If enough of the president’s supporters criticize him for failing to perform his responsibilities as the nation’s commander-in-chief and leader of the free world at a time of proliferating international turmoil and crisis, maybe he will take a moment away from his fundraisers just to prove them wrong.