Watching President Obama level attacks on Republicans in a preplanned speech on the “economy” as events unfolded tragically at the Washington Navy Yard was surreal.
When questioned about this tin ear moment later, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney responded that the president never for a moment considered postponing the speech. Later, when challenged about the appropriateness of the partisan tone of the speech given the events unfolding less than a mile away, Carney (with a straight face) said the speech was “far from being partisan.”
In the speech, Obama accused Republicans of attempting “to hurt people just to score political points.”
All I can say is that with instincts like this, I’m just thankful Obama wasn’t president during more critical points in our history.
Can you imagine him during the War of 1812 as the British descended on Washington and ultimately burned down the White House?
James Madison was president then, and he wisely escaped to Maryland to meet with his generals. His wife, Dolley, famously remained behind as long as possible and rescued White House valuables including the Gilbert Stuart portrait of George Washington which future generations appreciate and admire.
Imagine if Obama had been president. Likely, the British would have found him in some area hotel making a canned speech lambasting the opposition party while a group of selected sycophants stood behind him smiling and nodding on cue.
What about September 11th? Michael Moore made much of George W. Bush sitting in a classroom of second graders after Andy Card whispered in his ear that the World Trade Center was under attack. Evidently, Moore believes Bush should have jumped out of his chair and ran out of the room.
So what would Obama have done?
If Monday was any indication, it’s likely if he’d been at an event with a prepared speech loaded in the teleprompter attacking Republicans (which are the only kind of speeches he really gives), you can be sure he’d address the crisis in the first thirty seconds and then launch into the speech for the next hour. He really said as much last night when he told Telemundo that the reason he went ahead and gave his speech on Monday (which no one really listened to by the way) was because “Congress has a lot of work to do right now.” Obviously, they can’t be wasting a lot of time on an ongoing crisis.
Funny, but another president dealt with a similar speech timing dilemma and handled it quite differently.
On January 28, 1986, the space shuttle Challenger exploded killing all on board. That night, Ronald Reagan was scheduled to give the State of the Union address. For readers out there who are big fans of Obama, that’s a really big speech! Instead, he postponed that major address and gave a heartfelt and intimate address to a grieving nation from the Oval Office instead.
That’s presidential leadership. Sadly, that’s what’s lacking now.
Although he mentions him frequently, Obama is no Reagan. Instead, he seems more like Jimmy Carter every day. Although in Carter’s defense, even he would likely have used better judgment than Obama did on Monday.