Breaking news last night was wall to wall coverage of U.S. airstrikes on ISIS targets in Syria. It looked a lot like the pictures Americans saw of the Shock and Awe campaign that began the Iraq War.
On cable news this morning there was commentary and analysis of the previous evening’s events interrupted on occasion by an announcement that President Obama would address the nation shortly. Like most people listening, I was eager to hear what the president had to say.
Sometime after ten o’clock eastern time, Obama finally emerged from the White House onto the lawn and stood before a throng of anxiously waiting reporters. He spoke for approximately five minutes. Basically, he noted that he’d ordered airstrikes on ISIS forces in Syria as well as on another terrorist group we’ve heard little about. It was nice to know that he’d actually ordered this to happen and that what we all saw on television the night before wasn’t just the Navy and Air Force going rogue all of the sudden.
I say this because evidently that was the only point of his much anticipated remarks. He didn’t really say anything else worth noting.
Then he walked off.
That was it.
It was probably one of the most deflating presidential announcements I’ve ever seen, particularly after our military has just dropped bombs on an enemy.
As for President Obama, I’ve seen him more enthusiastic announcing his bracket choices for March Madness.
To say that this announcement was uninspiring is an understatement. If he was trying to convey the message that we all really shouldn’t get too worked up about all of this, I’d say he succeeded.
Since his reelection (and even before), many experts have speculated that Obama is bored with his job. They don’t feel like he’s really enjoying himself or that he has any passion for the position. His most ardent admirers think it may be that he’s just too smart for this type of work and so it’s somewhat beneath him, and he knows it.
His critics, on the other hand, believe quite the opposite. They think he’s in over his head and that he doesn’t know it yet.
Whatever the truth, I don’t think it can be denied after this morning that either he’s disenchanted with being president or he needs to take an iron supplement.
If he’s bored with or sick of his job, he’s not alone among the list of forty-four presidents who preceded him.
James Buchanan hated being president or at least he hated being president in a crisis. Had he been forced to confront the problems of say, Martin Van Buren or Chester Alan Arthur, he probably could have handled it. Instead, he was president as the nation spiraled into war and not just any war but the Civil War. He didn’t hide his wariness about the job either. As he left the Executive Mansion, he reportedly told his successor, Abraham Lincoln, “If you’re as happy to be coming to the White House as I shall be leaving it, you are a happy man indeed.”
William Howard Taft didn’t like being president either. He only took the job at the urging of his best friend, Theodore Roosevelt (who later betrayed him by actually running against him) and because his wife wanted to be First Lady. Only years later when he became Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court did he find great professional happiness.
Obama regards himself as a constitutional scholar, so he might also be happier on the Supreme Court. Unfortunately, many of us in the rest of the country wouldn’t feel likewise. This is yet another reason to keep the Democrats out of the White House in 2016. Imagine the next president appointing a relatively young Barack Obama to the Supreme Court!
Whatever Obama’s personal feelings, I at least hope that going forward he can muster a little energy, particularly if he’s going to start bombing people.
If he expects us all to follow, at least he should act like he wants to lead.