JONATHAN CHAIT JUNE 9, 2010
Earlier this week, Matt Lauer had this exchange in an interview with President Obama:
MR. LAUER: -- that this is not the time to meet with experts and advisers. This is a time to spend more time in the Gulf and -- I never thought I'd say this to a president -- but kick some butt.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: (Chuckles.)
MR. LAUER: And I don't mean it to be funny.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: No. And I understand. And here's what -- I'm going to push back hard on this, because I think that this is just an idea that got in folks' heads and the media has run with it. I was down there a month ago, before most of these talking heads were even paying attention to the Gulf. A month ago I was meeting with fishermen down there standing in the rain talking about what a potential crisis this could be.
And I don't sit around just talking to experts because this is a college seminar. We talk to these folks because they potentially have the best answers so I know whose ass to kick, right?
So, you know, this is not theater. Most of the decisions that I make on a day-to-day basis, I make because I have gathered the best information possible in very difficult situations, and my job is to figure out how can I move the federal government, the private sector, all the various players who are involved, to perform some very, very difficult tasks?
And I don't always have time to perform for the benefit of the cable shows. What I do have is dedication and commitment to make sure that the people who are actually being affected by this are going to get the best possible service from me. And as long as I'm president, that's the approach that I'm going to take to this job.
I was satisfied with the answer. Obama obviously disdains the ridiculous press ritual of demanding that he show emotion, and is trying to carefully explain why he has to actually do the work of being president and not just pose for the cameras looking manly.
You know who wasn't satisfied? You'll never guess: former Bush Minister of Propaganda Peter Wehner. Okay, I promised myself I'd refrain from more Wehner blogging, but this is too Wehneresque to ignore:
This is what an impotent and increasingly desperate White House does when it has nowhere to go and nowhere to hide. It hopes that the public will grade Obama on his emotions rather than his managerial skills. But it won’t work. Having blasted the previous administration over its handling of Hurricane Katrina, and having insisted weeks ago that the federal government is firmly in control of this ecological catastrophe, the president will be judged – fairly or not – on the outcome of the oil spill. He owns it. ...
It is a sign of a president who is thrashing about, frustrated he cannot extricate himself from an event that he cannot control and that is doing untold damage to him.
In the midst of this childish spin game, a person with standing in Obama’s life might whisper to him: “Mr. President, we already have one Clinton Eastwood. We don’t need you play-acting like you’re another.”
I've written about the strange habit of the former Bushies of projecting all their man's flaws onto the current president. But this is unusually blatant. Hoping to be graded on emotions rather than managerial competence? Pretending to be Clint Eastwood? This isn't merely something George W. Bush did. It captures the very essence of George W. Bush in so eerily accurate a way that, if you woke up a goat-herder in Inner Mongolia in the middle of the night and read this description to him, he would say, "You're talking about George W. Bush."
This is president who said of Osama bin Laden, "I want justice. And there's an old poster out west, that I recall, that said, 'Wanted, Dead or Alive,'" then horribly blundered by allowing bin Laden and al Qaeda to escape. Or the president who would respond to disasters like the Enron scandal by saying things like, "The best ethics course is to handcuff one of the bastards." Or the president who constantly pretended to be a cowboy.
In the interests of diversity, I keep raising the standard of what sort of Wehner commentary is hilarious enough to merit my attention. But however high I raise the bar, Wehner keeps clearing it.