You’d think a president who spends so much time vacationing and playing leisurely rounds of golf would appear well-rested and crisp, especially when he decides to grant a wide-ranging interview on a Sunday news show that’s watched by millions of people. But when it’s Barack Obama, anything is possible. The president agreed to sit down with NBC’s Chuck Todd for the red-bearded one’s inaugural go as the new Meet the Press moderator. After watching the program, it was difficult to walk away feeling even remotely as if Obama is a man who still wants this job. In my opinion, he looked tired, unmotivated, and didn’t sound concise at all — not that brevity has ever been his strong suit. I would have used the term “disheveled,” but Barry did take some time to shave. At the very least, he was clearly jet-lagged coming off of his recent visit to Estonia.
What will likely get the most press coverage today is Obama’s admission on the show that ISIS is not the “jayvee team” that he once called them. In answering Todd’s question about that, the president insisted that the now-infamous remarks were not intended specifically about ISIS, and he referred Chuck to his West Point speech for clarification. Obama has recently been using that West Point address from May ad infinitum as cover whenever he’s been asked about any and all foreign policy miscalculations. But interestingly enough, there was no mention of ISIS or ISIL anywhere in that speech, which you can read the text of here. I certainly can’t say I’m surprised.
Much more interesting to me than the semantic argument he’s now making was the exchange that’s shown in the video at the top of this page. Todd asked Obama whether he saw the messages that ISIS sent directly to him as they beheaded James Foley and Steven Sotloff. The president squirmed in his seat and refused to directly answer the question. “As part of our overall counterterrorism effort, I review all the social media,” he insisted. Asked about how it feels to be called out directly by a terrorist group, “It’s not so much how it affects me personally,” he said. “It’s thinking about the parents of and family members of these folks who were affected.” It may have been the extreme close-up that NBC News cameras had positioned on the president’s face, but it looked as if he was about to cry. More precisely, this looked like a man who is falling apart. Of course I don’t begrudge him for being emotionally affected by the situation, but let’s be honest here: we’re talking about someone who headed directly to the links after making his first official statement about the gruesome acts. One gets the sense that his emotions have less to do with two Americans getting their heads cut off, and more to do with the fact that Obama is counting down the days until his post-presidency can begin.
If you’re not convinced, consider this moment:
“Part of what I’d love is a vacation from the press,” said Obama, as he attempted to explain why he went golfing after the unspeakable tragedy. “I should have anticipated the optics” was about as close as he came to making an apology, before going on to explain that he’s never been great at the “political theater” aspect of being president. It’s funny; I always thought political theater was the main reason this guy got elected. Most would consider it his strong suit. What else would explain his random appearances on American Idol, Between Two Ferns, and WWE’s Monday Night Raw? After all that, it seems like he feels dejected by the fact that his poll numbers have sunk into the toilet, and so he’s retreating back to whining about not having the much-cherished anonymity anymore that he traded in on the day that he decided to become a public figure. Are we supposed to feel sorry for him now?
Come on, Mr. President. You’ve got two years left. You can act like a man and make the best of your crappy situation, or you can cower in the corner like a crybaby while ISIS murders more Americans. Which is it going to be? While you project images of weakness on a news program seen across the globe, the world is waiting…and the terrorists are laughing at you. Man up.
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