Wazzup, President Obama? You’ve got room on your schedule to schmooze hip-hop radio DJs, debate Nicki Minaj’s rap lyrics, hobnob with big donor celebs Jay-Z and Beyonce, and hang with Hollywood gossip TV anchors. _
We see your passion on the golf course, basketball court and beach. We see you late night on Letterman and Leno. We see your boundless energy on the campaign trail. We see your Twitter donation solicitations from dusk till dawn.
But when it comes time to play leader of the free world in times of international crisis, it’s “see ya, wouldn’t wanna be ya.” He’s all swag, no cattle.
I know I’m not the only one who was flabbergasted by Obama’s bloodless Rose Garden appearance following the planned two-part 9/11/12 jihadi attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, which resulted in the deaths of four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens.
Late as usual, the president ambled up to the podium 15 minutes behind schedule on Wednesday morning. Teleprompter-less, he spent the majority of his fleeting five-and-a-half-minute appearance with eyes downcast on his script.
With a grim Secretary of State Hillary Clinton looking over his shoulder, Obama delivered a flat, obligatory tribute to the murdered Americans. And then he read these words, drained of any iota of outrage, as if reading a local weather forecast. Or a fifth-grade book report. Or a dinner menu:
“The United States condemns (pauses, looks down) in the strongest terms (pauses) this outrageous and shocking attack (monotone). We’re working with the government of Libya to secure our diplomats. I’ve also directed my administration to increase our security at diplomatic posts around the world.”
Punctuated with noncommittal “uhs” and a pedestrian lilt, he read some more:
“And make no mistake (eyes looking down). Uh. We will work with the Libyan government to bring to justice the killers who attacked our people (eyes down, flipping page).”
In a bland and unconvincing recitation, Obama stated perfunctorily: “No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation, alter that character or eclipse the light of the values that we stand for.” Looking down at his script again, he hurried along: “We will not waver in our commitment to see that justice is done for this terrible act. And make no mistake, justice will be done.”
Detached, diffident, aloof and resigned, America and the world saw a eulogizer in chief, not a commander in chief. It was as if something more important were occupying his mind at the time.
And it was. Soon after, Obama scurried onto a plane to Las Vegas for a lovefest campaign rally with 8,000 fanboys and fangirls who cultishly screamed, “I lovve youuuuuu” — interrupting his cool POTUS flow momentarily as he dispensed with a line or two about the bloody disaster in the Middle East. Incurably self-absorbed, Obama lamented that “we” had a “tough day” for a second or two. And then he turned quickly back to the central business of getting himself re-elected.
If only Obama had mustered half as much energy and outrage at the homicidal Islamic plotters in Benghazi as he shows in his tirades against the Tea Party, the Koch brothers, conservative talk radio, Fox News, House GOP budget reformers or GOP presidential rival Mitt Romney and his running mate, Paul Ryan.
If only he had delivered his Rose Garden script with as much conviction and finger-jabbing as he did when he “slow-jammed the news” with comedian Jimmy Fallon.
This isn’t the first time Obama’s diffident demeanor in crisis has been exposed. I’ve noted before his bizarrely detached initial remarks about the Fort Hood jihadi attack — which he treated as an afterthought. And I reported on his sterile national security announcement in December 2010, when the jihadi Christmas Day underwear bomber rudely interrupted his vacay. Eyes down on his notes the whole time and dressed in tie-less informal Hawaiian island wear, he described the failed attack with the weariness of a small-town sheriff’s deputy.
And then he rushed back to work. Or rather, rest.
What makes a growing number of Americans angry is the (SET ITAL) lack (END ITAL) of righteous anger this administration exhibits toward the existential threats we face abroad and at home. We want a leader — not a celebrity — who puts the nation’s self-preservation above his own.