Team of nitwits scrutinized

New York Times reporter Mark Landler scrutinizes the photos of Obama’s war council, as he calls it, deliberating over Syria in recent days. The centerpiece of the scrapbook online — and the photo that runs with the story in the hard copy national edition of the Times — is the one I have called Team of Nitwits.

It’s an unintentionally funny article and I encourage interested readers to check it out in its entirety. Noting that the photo was taken this past Saturday after Obama had decided to seek congressional authorization for finely tuned, perfectly calibrated military action, Landler imbues the Team of Nitwits photo in particular with high drama:

Mr. Obama assembled his National Security Council in the Situation Room. The same group had met there several times to plot the drive toward military action. But on this Saturday, the president was laying out a pause in the campaign.

To his right was Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., who would stand behind him in the Rose Garden a few hours later, and Mr. Kerry, who would have to battle the perception that the White House had left him out on a limb. To his left were the his national security adviser, Susan E. Rice, and Mr. Hagel, whose celadon-green sport jacket and fuchsia shirt were a jarring counterpoint to the white shirts and sober ties of Mr. Biden and Mr. Kerry.

For Mr. Obama, who has sometimes been criticized for his inability to mask his emotions, it was a remarkable role reversal. By week’s end, he appeared resolute in his course, while his aides seemed to be the ones struggling to hide their feelings.

Putting the question of Hagel’s taste in fashion to one side, I think it’s a funny kind of resolution Landler imputes to Obama. I believe the rest of that riff goes “decided only to be undecided, resolved to be irresolute, adamant for drift, solid for fluidity…”


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