Obama Isn’t a President but He Plays One
posted at 9:47 am on October 7, 2009 by Howard Portnoy
Barack Obama has planned to hold another strategy session with his senior military advisers on Wednesday. This comes exactly one week after he held a strategy session in the White House Situation Room that included a video conference with head of Afghanistan operations Gen. Stanley McChrystal — which, in turn, came an inexplicably lengthy several months after his previous meeting with his wartime commander on the ground. What has changed in Afghanistan to prompt a second meeting in a week’s time? Has there been a major all-out assault by the Taliban or Al Qaeda? Has there been some other event that has radically altered the progress or direction of the war?
No, nothing has happened. The meeting is to go over the same ground the president and his advisers covered in the meeting one week ago — to discuss whether to comply with McChrystal’s call for an additional 30,000 to 40,000 troops or whether to heed the advice of foreign-policy “expert” Joe Biden, who recommends a counter-insurgencyterrorism strategy, conducting air strikes designed to bomb key targets from afar.
So, why the second meeting in so short a space of time? The answer is simple: Afghanistan is suddenly a hot topic in the media and on the minds of the electorate. It is on the front pages of the New York Times and Washington Post. It is the subject of countless op-ed pieces, some pro troop surge, some anti, some mixed. It is a topic being discussed and hotly debated around water coolers and dinner tables across the country.
Obama has called for another confab because, as with virtually everything he does as president, it looks like the right thing to do. When there is concern in the country about a particular topic or policy, the president puts on his “concerned leader” face and springs into “concerned leader” mode.
For this president, unlike any other I can remember, appearances are everything. You want to persuade the American public that physicians are on board with ObamaCare? You stage a photo op in the Rose Garden surrounded by 150 doctors, making sure that you have instructed them to wear their lab coats so that they look official. What happens if some of them show up in street clothes instead? The White House Office of Looking the Part goes into its wardrobe department and then hands out white lab coats.
This tendency on Obama’s part to play a president on TV and in the public eye, rather than be a real one, goes back to his campaign days. When the conservative press revealed that he had spent twenty years in a black nationalist church with a virulent racist as its pastor, Obama suddenly appeared concerned about racism, as though it had been on his mind all along. He gave an historic speech about the need to have an honest dialogue about race (which, nota bene, he has yet to follow up on).
The speech in which he accepted the Democratic nomination for the presidency wasn’t held in some stuffy auditorium. That wouldn’t have conveyed the right look and feel. So the event was held rather at Invesco Field in Denver, on a stage moreover dolled up to look like a Greek temple. The goal was to give the appearance of an Olympian god descending from the heights to greet 80,000 lucky suppliants.
The nation is currently beset with a host of problems — two wars, record unemployment, a still-foundering economy, a health-care fiasco that could ultimately end in socialized medicine, and an energy proposal guaranteed to lead us deeper into recession. Not all of these problems are of Obama’s making. Nevertheless, right now we need a real president. We need a leader who can meet the issues head on and effect policies that will begin to move us toward solutions. Sadly, we don’t have one. Instead, we have someone more interested in looking good than acting good — which in the end is a recipe for disaster.
Cross-posted at Zombie Contentions
Recently in the Green Room: