Advertisement

Trust Your Instincts, Mr. President

Trust Your Instincts, Mr. President

By Richard Reeves - October 6, 2009

LOS ANGELES -- We do not pay the president by the hour and, I understand, he has some pretty good telecommuting equipment. So if he wants to take a 20-hour trip to Copenhagen, even in a lost cause, the Republic will survive.

Politics being what it is, it is kind of a joke to listen to President Obama's Republican opponents, the loyal opposition -- to everything -- work him over for a day away from the Oval Office, the old-fashioned one in Washington. Suddenly, the health care reform they have been trying to undermine or even blow up is so crucial that the president can't take a nap.

And his Democratic friends and usually friendly pundits are upset that Obama violated a traditional rule of the presidency by going into a meeting without a preordained result -- a win negotiated in advance. That is, in fact, how presidential meetings are usually arranged. A small example is that the president is not supposed to offer a job to anyone unless his staff has already confirmed that the potential appointee will say "yes."

Presidents, you see, must never be embarrassed. The New York Times intoned:

"President Obama not only failed to bring home the gold, he could not even muster the silver or the bronze. ... It provides fodder for critics who are already using it as a metaphor for a president who, in their view, focuses on the the wrong priorities and overestimates his capacity to persuade the world to follow his lead."

Oh, please!

Who cares? National security was hardly involved as Obama, and his wife, skipped over to Denmark to put in a good and presumably helpful word for their hometown. Anti-Americanism aside, and there has always been a good deal of it within the international Olympic movement, Rio de Janeiro had a winning argument from the start. There had never been Olympic Games in South America. If it weren't Chicago in the running, I'd suspect that were Obama on the International Olympic Committee, he might have voted for Rio as a symbol of the fact that Brazil is one of the big boys now.

I, for one, hope that Obama took his day-trip against the advice of his staff because he just felt like doing it. On instinct.

I remember vividly the first time I saw Obama as a presidential candidate in 2007 and came out of a small gathering thinking that this guy might be too thoughtful for the job. It was a meeting with New York movers and shakers sponsored by Time magazine. Over drinks later, the power and money brokers, many of whom had served in the White House at one time or another, talked among themselves about how impressive the guy was. But the words they used were warnings: "rational," "intellectual," "nice," "cool."

A former assistant secretary of state said flatly he thought Obama was "too nice" to be president. Others, including a former secretary of state with an accent, nodded in apparent agreement. One said he thought Obama would think too much, using the phrase as a euphemism for being indecisive.

That impression of Obama was dramatized during his campaign against Republican John McCain, who is a model of an instinctive and stubborn politician not much interested in finer points. He was like Harry Truman in 1948, ignoring the sage advice of his entire Cabinet and National Security Council telling him to get out of West Berlin in 1948. Truman said: "We stay in Berlin. Period." That was the beginning of the Berlin Airlift. Obama, on the other hand, was like John F. Kennedy during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, weighing all the arguments for two weeks and working his way to a successful conclusion.

The flip side was: Would Obama have given up Berlin and perhaps, eventually, all of Europe? Would McCain have blown up and attacked Cuba, leading to God knows what?

This blip will be little noted nor long remembered, but perhaps it will persuade our nice and rational president, on occasion, to just do it -- trust your own instincts once in a while.

Copyright 2009, Universal Press Syndicate

John McCain on the Back Story of "Thirteen Soldiers"
Carl M. Cannon · November 15, 2014

Richard Reeves

Author Archive

Follow Real Clear Politics

Latest On Twitter