Two left feet: Obama’s week of ‘bad optics’ really just bad leadership

Two left feet: Obama’s week of ‘bad optics’ really just bad leadership, New York PostKyle Smith, March 27, 2016

obama_us_analysisBarack Obama shakes hands with Cuban President Raul Castro. Photo AP

To be a president means regularly to find oneself caught off balance. Sometimes you want to chill at the same moment your enemies move to kill. You may find yourself doing an innocent photo op reading a book to little kids when terrorists launch a coordinated attack on the country.

So let’s have a little sympathy for President Obama this week. It has to be frustrating when you set out to make nice with the leaders of a mass-murdering fanatical regime and at the exact same time a mass murder is carried out by a completely different group of fanatics — the ones you keep saying are no big deal.

It has to get under your skin when you bring a planeload of fanboy hacks with you to a tropical paradise on the understanding that they’ll write nice stories about your kicking back with one half of a pair of homicidal brothers when instead people get all distracted about the tiny detail of 31 people getting killed by a different pair of homicidal brothers.

The president whose acolytes call him No Drama Obama aren’t quite right, but they are on to something. The president does get angry, but not at terrorists, dictators or mass murderers. Every time rage sneaks into his face, he’s talking about his domestic political opponents. He’s talking about budgetary disputes, federal appointments, Constitutional interpretation.

Blood literally running in the streets of Belgium? Heads being cut off by sabers? A movement that wants to kill every Jew and Christian? Shrug. Obama spoke about the ISIS mass murder briefly.

Then he did “the wave” with Raul Castro.

cuba_obama4Obama and Castro wave to the crowd during a exhibition game between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Cuban national team.

As one newspaper headline put it, juxtaposing a photo of Obama doing the tango in Argentina against an image from the latest ISIS atrocity, “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot?” That’s the polite way of referring to the words that are ordinarily indicated by “WTF?”

There are often no great options for a president in times of strain; if President Bush had, when informed that the second plane had hit the World Trade Center, scared the kids by throwing down his copy of “The Pet Goat” and said, “Holy s–t! We’re under attack!” he would have been criticized even more heartily than he was for continuing to read for seven more minutes. (Though it’s hard to grasp exactly what exactly liberals find so outrageous about that notorious delay: Would they be happy if Bush had invaded Afghanistan seven minutes sooner than he did?)

Once Obama decided to go to the ballgame, his only choices were to stick with it and risk looking out of sync with the world’s mood, which is what he did, or ruin his fun day out with a new pal who once ordered up the execution of hundreds of political enemies.

Hey, at least Raul Castro never did anything really vile like declining to appear on a television program with Obama. (In January, The Hill reported, the president grew “visibly angry” when he mentioned the NRA at his gun-control town hall.)

Maybe Obama was invisibly angry with ISIS after the Brussels slaughter. But if you were looking for a signal that he was taking it seriously, you were disappointed. “We defeat them in part by saying, ‘You are not strong, you are weak,’” was his message, reverting to his default reasoning about how terrorism is really all a matter of adjusting your perceptions because the bad guys obviously can’t hurt us if we keep saying we’re not hurt.

usa-argentina_3Obama tangos in Argentina.Photo: Reuters

It’s the same logic you heard in high school from your highly educated feminist English teacher, the one who drove a rusted Chevette with a bumper sticker reading, “It will be a great day when schools get all the money they need and the Air Force has to hold a bake sale to buy a bomber.” She told you the best way to beat bullies was to deny them any satisfaction, i.e. to pretend they weren’t pummeling you. “Just curl up into the fetal position, Johnny, you’ll have the last laugh when their punching muscles wear out in an hour or two.” Roughly at the same time, you developed strange new respect for your meathead gym teacher, the one who taught you how to throw a punch in such a way that it would definitely make a nose bleed.

What this week really demonstrated was not that Obama has a wee problem with “the optics” of his job, but that he’s stuck forever in campaign mode, confusing rhetoric with leading. ISIS just laughs and reloads when the president chides them.

Beginning to normalize relations with Cuba is a good idea — but Obama loved the picture of himself giving a speech in Havana so much that he skipped over the part where he’d win concessions from the regime. Giving away the game was his opening bid.

We have the kind of president who would drive away from a car lot congratulating himself on his sweet deal after paying the sucker’s price — plus extra for the “protective undercoating.”

Explore posts in the same categories: Brussels terror attack, Cuba, Free world, Islamic terrorism, Obama and Cuba, Obama and Islamic State, Obama and Islamic terrorism, Obama's leadership

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