Green’s essay highlights one other critical flaw in Obama’s crisis management: His refusal to engage in the theatrical parts of the presidency looks terrible during crises. “Six years in, it’s clear that Obama’s presidency is largely about adhering to intellectual rigor—regardless of the public’s emotional needs,” he writes. “The virtues of this approach are often obscured in a crisis, because Obama disdains the performative aspects of his job.” The performative aspects of the presidency are particularly important during crises when the public is tense and needs a leader to inspire faith in the government. Obama hasn’t been that leader.
But it’s more important that the president craft effective policy responses to crises. Obama has done that—and the media coverage has missed it completely, focusing instead on Obama’s rhetorical shortcomings and downplaying his policy successes. Green’s piece is a perfect example of this. He lambasts the administration’s response to the Ebola outbreak, but at the end, he admits that the outcomes haven’t been that bad. “[Obama’s] record, even on issues where he’s drawn heavy criticism, is often much better than the initial impression would lead one to believe,” Green writes. “He may tackle crises in a way that ignores the public mood, yet things generally turn out pretty well in the end. … The best-case scenario is that the U.S. Ebola scare mimics this pattern. That could already be happening.”
This dynamic has certainly hurt Obama politically. “It’s often said in Washington that the best politics is good policy,” Green writes. “That hasn’t been Obama’s experience.” No, it hasn’t. But that’s largely not his fault.