Foon Rhee

July 23, 2014

Editorial notebook: Obama’s response to crises is par for the course

President doesn’t let Ukraine plane shoot-down or Gaza death toll interrupt his regular schedule.

Foon Rhee

Associate editor, editorial writer and Viewpoints editor

With his words, President Barack Obama would have us believe he’s totally on top of two pressing international crises.

His actions, however, say it’s business as usual. He certainly isn’t letting Ukraine and Gaza get in the way of his public schedule.

After news broke last Thursday that Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 had been shot down over Ukraine with nearly 300 aboard, Obama still flew to Delaware to have a burger and fries at a popular restaurant and give a speech about infrastructure. He then went on to New York for two private political events.

As the death toll in Gaza rose on Sunday, he still got in a round of golf at Camp David. And Wednesday, he’s scheduled to be back in Silicon Valley to collect more campaign cash – $10,000 per person or $32,400 per couple for VIP access – followed Thursday in Los Angeles by a speech on job training and yet another fundraiser.

Wouldn’t want Obama to miss out on portraying himself as all about jobs, or helping fellow Democrats in the November midterm election, right? At least he had the good sense not to go on Jimmy Kimmel’s late-night comedy show.

The White House defense is that he can consult top advisers and world leaders wherever he is, and that major schedule changes could cause undue alarm. Would the stock market tumble and foreign militaries get jittery if Obama passed up a few photo-ops or avoided the golf course for a while? Highly doubtful.

We don’t want our commander in chief to overreact to world events, but we also don’t want a president acting as if they are an annoying distraction. As some commentators have noted, this would be a very good time for Obama to tell the nation in a prime-time speech exactly what the U.S. role and policy should be in Europe and the Middle East.

I’m not holding my breath. It’s the latest reason why I’m among those who wanted to believe in the hope and change that Obama promised, but who have been disappointed.

Don’t get me wrong, I think he’s accomplished some great things for the country, especially since Republicans in Congress have been fighting him almost every step of the way. I get that he had to dig out from two wars and a deep recession that he inherited. I also know that the Obama haters look for any excuse to bash him. But every once in a while, they have a point.

It’s not that I’m angry at him. It’s more frustration, even a sort of wistfulness that he hasn’t made more progress. Too often, he makes some big pronouncement – the “pivot” to Asia, the rebuilding of the middle class – but doesn’t quite deliver.

The saving grace is that he has nearly 21/2 years left in his term. There’s time yet for Obama to leave a more lasting legacy for good, at home and abroad.

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