Nov 8 2009
Now, even the Obama-smitten British media are wondering if the ‘bloodless performance of cojones-challenged President Obama is what has many Americans longing for George W. Bush?’
Barack Obama’s reaction to bad news is to play it so cool that Americans yearn for a bit more drama – and some even for his predecessor.
During the election campaign, Barack Obama’s cool detachment was a winning quality, the “No Drama Obama” a welcome contrast with the “Mr Angry” John McCain, never mind the hot-headed “I’m the decider” President George W Bush. A year into his presidency, however, Mr Obama seems a curiously bloodless president. If he experiences passion, he seldom shows it. It is often anyone’s guess as to whether an event or issue truly moves him. He has spent more than two months considering a troop increase but do we know how he really feels about the Afghan war?
In a sign that the Obama honeymoon truly is over, I began to hear this week the first stirrings of a wistfulness about Mr Bush. “I never thought I’d hear myself say it,” one Democrat told me. “But Obama makes you feel that at least with Bush you knew where he was on something.”
When Mr Bush’s Republicans were defeated in the 2006 mid-term elections, it was the President himself who stepped up and declared that his party had received “a thumpin”.The Democratic defeats on Tuesday were not on anything like the same scale but Mr Obama acted as if nothing at all had happened. White House aides just shrugged. For three days, Mr Obama maintained a studied silence about the results while his aides blamed them on local factors that had nothing to do with the President. And to think that it was Mr Bush who was always accused of being “in denial.”
More serious perhaps was Mr Obama’s strange disconnectedness over the Fort Hood massacre of 13 soldiers by an Army major and devout Muslim who opposed the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, had praised suicide bombing and shouted “Allahu Akbar” as he opened fire.
Maybe Mr Obama had been reading the American press, much of which somehow contrived to present the atrocity as a result of combat stress due to soldiers going on repeated war deployments (though Major Nadal Hasan had not been on any) and therefore, no doubt, Mr Bush’s fault.
When the television networks cut to the President, viewers listened to him spend more than two surreal minutes talking to a gathering of Native Americans about their “extraordinary” and “extremely productive” conference, pausing to give a cheery “shout out” to a man named Dr Joe Medicine Crow. Only then did he briefly and mechanically address what had happened in Texas.
On Friday, when most of the basic facts were available, Mr Obama tried again. It was scarcely any better. He began by offering “an update on the tragedy that took place” – as if it was an earthquake and not a terrorist attack from an enemy within – and ended with a promise for more “updates in the coming days and weeks”.
Completely missing was the eloquence that Mr Obama employs when talking about himself. Absent too was any sense that the President empathised with the families and comrades of those murdered. (He didn’t, but he wanted to make sure nobody jumped to conclusions about his Muslim brother)
The White House argues that Mr Obama was not on the ballot last week and there is therefore no need to fret. The problem with this complacency is that voters were angry about the state of the economy, which Mr Obama can’t keep blaming on hispredecessor. With unemployment now above 10 per cent, Mr Obama needs to show Americans that he can relate to what they’re going through, and take responsibility.
It could do him good to show he has a bit of fire in his belly. Perhaps he might make a decision or two based on gut instinct and deep conviction. In other words, maybe he should try being a bit more like Mr Bush. UK TELEGRAPH
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