No, not in terms of competence, which Cheney oozed and Obama, to put it mildly, does not. Rather, in terms of Cheney’s inability to fake emotional involvement. Bill Clinton was a master of insincerity; when he felt our pain, we almost believed it. Cheney, on the other hand, once sheepishly admitted that he “doesn’t do funerals.” Emotional symbolism wasn’t his forte, and he knew it.
Obama strikes me as, in that respect, a similar personality. He knew that politics dictated that he make a trip to the Gulf to show his concern over the oil spilll; he also knew that such a trip would do no practical good whatsoever. Notwithstanding his daughter’s misapprehension, there is nothing that Obama can personally do to plug the leak.
So what we got was a strikingly half-hearted effort. Obama passed through the Gulf in a whirlwind three hours and fifteen minutes, just long enough to pose for a series of photo ops and then beat it back to Chicago.
Here is an excerpt from Obama’s official schedule, courtesy of the White House; click to enlarge:
This is less time than most of us feel obliged to spend with our in-laws on Thanksgiving. And, after speeding back to Chicago, what was the first thing Obama did? He played basketball.
I think I finally understand what Obama’s supporters have meant all this time when they call him “cerebral.” He just doesn’t do emotion well. I’m sympathetic to him on that one, as I was to Cheney. But Americans, unfortunately, have come to expect emotional resonance from their presidents. The lack of it could prove a significant liability to Obama.
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