They All Want A Daddy
Following up on tristero's post below about today's mind numbingly stupid Maureen Dowd column, I would just note that she's not the only one. I wrote about this meme as it was developing. And last week, Chris Matthews took it to the next level in this exchange with Drew Westen.
(I should also note that while I agree with some of Westen's critique about Obama in this widely read article, the following is simply bullshit. If Obama has any problems the fact that he doesn't "sound passionate" enough, isn't among them.)
MATTHEWS: OK, let‘s talk about that executive role. And I want you to jump in here, Drew, because I think we‘re on to something very narrow and very particular and pointed here. Something like the White House security and those grifters broke in—a small matter, you could argue, because nothing really went wrong, but they did break in. They had no right to be there. It took him the longest time.
Now, Sally Quinn, who writes about things in Washington, said today in “The Washington Post” on the op-ed page, he should have fired somebody. It should have been Mark Sullivan out of Secret—somebody, Desiree Rogers, in charge of social life. That was a case. Then the other thing with this thing with the airplane almost being blown up—nobody seems to be—you don‘t get a sense he‘s the boss.
MATTHEWS: OK, let me get a little dispassionate from you there, Drew, and that is this question. Executive ability—this president was not a governor. He was not a mayor. He‘s not used to cashing the checks or signing them. He‘s not used to being there when there‘s a four-alarm fire downtown.
My idea of a president, my idea of a mayor, a police chief is exactly the same. In fact, the job I‘ve always wanted was police commissioner of Philly, OK? I want to be the guy standing on the curb when there‘s a big fire. I want to be there when the reporters come by and says, What happened here? Have you got things under control? How many engines you got here? Are you going to put it out in an hour or what? I want to see a president on the job. I love that stuff.
I thought Bush was out to lunch during Katrina. I think that really killed his presidency and his role in history because he wasn‘t there. He was somewhere in Crawford with his feet up, drinking near beers. I don‘t know what he was doing, but he wasn‘t on the job.
This president was in Hawaii getting some sun. Fair enough. But it looked terrible. It looked terrible. When there‘s a big fire, the mayor ought to be there.
WESTEN: Well, you‘re absolutely right, and...
MATTHEWS: That‘s my thought. What are your—what‘s your thought...tell me what his brain should have been doing.
WESTEN: He—well, you know, what his brain should have been thinking back to was the other Bush, who came out on September 12th with that foghorn because that‘s the Bush who actually captivated the American people...
MATTHEWS: I liked that guy.
WESTEN: ... because he showed the passion. You know, he was right there, and every American stood by him. And the president we saw today...
MATTHEWS: Then he let Cheney eat him up like a Pacman. Cheney and the neocons grabbed that little hero that we loved with the firefighter and turned him into a little agent of their causes.
The so-called little hero let Cheney eat him up like Pacman? Not much of a hero if you ask me.
Regardless of the political theatre, which makes me sick on its own terms, no rational culture should think this way about terrorism. It's puerile, "PeeWee's Funhouse" level kabuki and my hunch is that the only people who really expect it are the media gasbags who are trying to make this event into a crisis for their own purposes --- and the politicians who run around like chickens chasing after every shiny object the media throws out there.
Here is how mature people think about these issues:
Fareed Zakaria: Senator Dianna Feinstein says that she believes the United States government should overreact rather than under react to these kinds of events.
Isn't that exactly backwards? The purpose of terrorism is not to kill the few hundred that are attacked, but to terrorize the tens upon tens on millions who watch. Terrorism is unique as a military strategy in that it depends for its effectiveness upon the response of the society.For it to work, all of us have to respond with fear and hysteria. So far, we're doing just that.
I don't mean to suggest by this that the system worked. It didn't. When the US got information about the terrorists father they should have immediately checked if he had a visa and put him on a now fly list. They should not have allowed him to enter an airplane with a makeshift bomb. These are all mistakes, they should be fixed.
But there will be other mistakes uncovered over the years as we go through this process. And we must have the ability to calmly seriously and effectively react to these problems and improve the system so that it gets better and better every year, rather than going crazy.
The atmosphere in Washington these days, the media calls, the political wrangling the calls for heads to roll these are all indications of panic --- and partisanship. And overreacting would cause the worst policy responses --- large, broad brushed, expensive efforts to pat down thousands more grandmothers every day, keep the military involved in everyplace that claims they have al Qaeda. But these might not be the most effective responses. We need less grandstanding from everyone, including the president of the United States, and more sober efforts to simply improve security and resilience in this country.
Being calm and deliberate about terrorism is the right policy to keep America secure. Chest pounding and overreaction just so that the pundits and politicians can get that marvelous thrill up their legs is the wrong policy. It is a testament to just how much power these fatuous gasbags have that they actually seem to think they can force the president to come before the microphones and "sound" really mad so that they can feel comfy and secure that Daddy will keep the boogeyman from killing them in their beds. But the more belligerent he gets and the more bellicose the threats, the less safe we all actually are.
I have no problem knocking Obama when it's called for, but this is nonsense. His calm, mature demeanor and deliberate approach to national security is an asset both in political and policy terms. Regardless of the conclusions he reaches about military escalation and the rest, we know this: the last thing we need is another angry, sophomoric cheerleader giving the Islamic fundamentalists exactly what they want.