Obama Hits Wrong Notes in Lackluster Terror Speech

He may have waited too long to "emerge from seclusion" in Hawaii

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People often praise President Obama's eerie calm in crisis, but his casual-seeming Monday press conference on the attempted terror attack--three days after Flight 253 landed--rubbed many the wrong way. His lack of a tie, and his decision to play golf immediately after the conference drew predictable partisan fire. But the bigger takeaway is that while Obama wanted to signal confidence and relaxation, what some observers seem to want from the president is a greater sense of urgency, gravity, and stress.

  • Terror Requires More Than Old Public Relations Formulas, writes Carol E. Lee for Politico. Lee says the Obama White House is showing a "by-now familiar pattern" of handling crises: subordinates deny doing anything wrong, until Obama eventually "concedes" or gives an address. "But the fact that the issue now is a terrorist incident - albeit an unsuccessful one - makes the stakes much higher, and the White House's usual approach more questionable. That this test of his leadership comes while he's on vacation in tropical Hawaii further complicates things."
  • 'Tone Deaf,' says Glynnis MacNicol at Mediate. MacNicol says the press conference would have conveyed the right tone--if only it had come days sooner. "The casualness of his attire matched with the shortness of the statement, and the lack of questions felt a bit tone deaf considering the President and his advisers had the entire weekend to prepare for it. Moreover, they only served to underline concerns that the President perhaps did not have a grasp of the seriousness of the situation."
  • Out of Sight Too Long?  The New York Times's Peter Baker and Scott Shane repeatedly note Obama's isolation and delay in addressing "increasingly political" debate. "President Obama emerged from Hawaiian seclusion...Mr. Obama, making his first public comments since the episode...Although he had been out of sight for three days...The visual contrast of a president on vacation while there was anxiety about air travel also drew fire."
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