Where, oh where, are you tonight
Why did you leave me here all alone?
—Roy Clark, Where Are You Tonight?
I remain very disturbed about this.
A mob—or an organized terrorist brigade, take your pick—has attacked a U.S. consulate in Libya, murdering our ambassador and three of his staff. An unverified report from a Lebanese news organization claims the ambassador was sodomized. Mobs have set fires at U.S. diplomatic installations in Egypt, Lebanon, Sudan, Somalia, Tunisia, Yemen, and even in London. Mobs are gathering outside U.S. interests in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Embassies of our (at least for the moment) allies Germany and Switzerland have been overrun and set on fire in Sudan and Iran, respectively. Meanwhile, whether related or not, campuses are being evacuated due to “al Qaeda threats” at the University of Texas, North Dakota State, and Valparaiso.
The situation in the Middle East, and possibly with Islamist sympathizers here at home, is quickly spiraling out of control. So I have one simple, but important question:
Where the Hell is the President?!?!
He did a flat and disingenuous five minute dry-read speech at the Rose Garden, and a cynical photo op with the coffins returning the bodies of our dead diplomats, and that was it. He sent out Jay Carney to make the laughable denial that all the violence and chaos is directed at the U.S., insisting that it’s all about a stupid movie—and, BTW, I’ve seen it, and it’s so beyond stupid no rational person could possibly take it seriously enough to be offended. His surrogates have been running around castigating Mitt Romney for trying to politicize the crisis, when all he’s been doing is explaining the problems with Obama’s rudderless policy of appeasement and how he would do things differently—a perfectly legitimate thing for a presidential candidate to do. All the while Obama is off partying like it’s 1999 with Jay-Z and Beyonce, or raising more re-election cash in Vegas, or doing softball campaign interviews for 60 Minutes. He’s everywhere but out front and leading.
You mean he can’t take an hour or two off of his re-election campaign to actually do his freaking job?!?!
The message coming from the administration, such as it is, is garbled and self-contradictory. Jerusalem is not the capital of Israel, then it is, then it is but only until a final solution on Palestine is negotiated. We apologize for the video, then we don’t, then we do but still “condemn” the violence. Egypt is not an ally, then it is. This is a religious mob, then it’s a coordinated al Qaeda revenge attack, then it’s just a mob again. A UK paper is reporting that U.S. intelligence was warned of a possible impending attack a week ago; not surprisingly, the administration denies that. Our foreign policy in the Middle East gives every outward indication that it’s being managed and implemented by the Keystone Cops (at least there’s one Keystone this administration can embrace).
This is what happens when you have a complete absence of leadership. And I don’t mean just a lack; Obama is literally MIA.
At times of national crisis, we as citizens need to know that our Commander-in-Chief is in charge. That he’s on the job and in control of the situation. That’s why Presidents for decades have given prompt national TV addresses to the nation at critical moments.
Kennedy did that with the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Reagan did that with the Beirut bombing and the Challenger explosion.
Bush 43 did that after 9/11.
Obama himself has used national TV addresses as a pulpit, but not to reassure the nation that he was in command. He did it to boast about the killing of Osama bin Laden (important closure, but in itself hardly the apex of an urgent national crisis), and to use the BP Deepwater Horizon incident to further his anti-oil environmental zealotry agenda. He did it from the floor of the House when he wanted to brow-beat Congress for not adopting his “jobs” spending agenda. As a candidate he did it when he needed to distance himself from the volatile Rev. Jeremiah Wright (throwing his own grandmother and Wright under the bus in the process). So we know Obama knows how to use national TV time, because he’s done so in the past when it has suited him politically.
Where is he now? When it’s time to take some responsibility and demonstrate that he grasps the gravity of the situation and has it under control, why are we now five days into the crisis and we as a nation haven’t heard so much as boo from him?
Leaders lead, and that’s a must-be-present-to-win proposition. You can’t phone it in, and you can’t staff it out. You can’t run away on vacation (like he did last year during the debt ceiling crisis and the downgrading of our credit), or hide behind celebrity fundraising bashes and cupcake staged media appearances when a hot situation is reaching critical mass. You have to stand up—yourself—and take charge. Almost as important, you have to be visible to the rest of us in doing it. That doesn’t necessarily mean dropping bombs or sending in troops. But the face of the nation needs to be seen by America and the world. It needs to express the full measure of our outrage, calm the fears of those of us at home, and make clear to the rest of the world that we are still the biggest kid on the block and we won’t have sand kicked in our face.
That’s part of leadership. And it’s totally missing.