I don’t always agree with Ed Morrissey’s selections for his Obamateurism of the Day, but even when I don’t they generally provide some light amusement for the morning. Not so the most recent one, though, which deals with the fact that the Commander in Chief was found playing soccer with some children in Brazil just as he was sending American troops into harm’s way in Libya. This story unfolds just as the Speaker of the House was asking the President to explain the US role in Libya. Perhaps a better question might have been to ask for an explanation of Obama’s role in Brazil at such a critical juncture.
I’m not blind to the role that optics plays in American politics, and I’ll be the first to admit that some accusations of this type get a bit overblown. Whether it’s hitting the golf course in the middle of a natural disaster or conducting a fundraiser with union representatives just as their role in bankrupting the states is all over the news, leaders need to be aware of these sour notes if they hope to succeed. But as is so frequently pointed out, the White House travels with the president in the modern era and he can generally conduct most of his affairs from the road.
War is a different matter, though, and committing our troops to any engagement in hostile territory is one of the most sober and serious responsibilities faced by any president. Yes, he can be briefed and issue orders from afar through the miracles of modern technology, but there’s more to it than that. Being in the war room with the joint chiefs is the proper place for him on the day he launches a war, not clinking glasses of champagne with foreign dignitaries. Breaking news arrives there first and in such a critical situation there really is no substitute for being there with the Joint Chiefs where he can look them in the eye, take the measure of what they are saying, receive updates in real time and make the best decisions possible.
Small wonder that even Chuck Todd of MSNBC chose this weekend to refer to the split-screen presidency.
Running the launch of a war via sporadic conference calls from the Southern hemisphere is both literally and symbolically “phoning it in,” and at the worst possible time. Further, it’s simply a poor message to send to the troops. As submarine commanders give the order to turn the keys and let the tomahawks fly, as pilots receive the order to unleash missiles at ground based installations where lives will most surely be lost, seeing that your absolute, highest level commander was kicking a ball around with some kids in an ally in Rio can’t inspire confidence.
Plus, the aforementioned optics are still in play. It simply looks bad. I agree that the trip to South America was a worthwhile way for President Obama to spend his time, provided he focused on issues of jobs and the economy, but that was before we found out that we would be launching a third war. As soon as he made that decision, Air Force One should have been winging its way back to Washington. I’m positive that the president of Brazil would have understood as soon as the details were explained to her.
Since he chose to play soccer, the metaphor should continue. It’s time to issue Barack Obama a yellow card and let him know this play was flubbed. Badly.
This post was promoted from GreenRoom to HotAir.com.
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