THE day before he gave his latest brilliant speech, Barack Obama repeated a well-worn mantra to a television interviewer: "My job is not to be distracted by the 24-hour news cycle." The time has come for him to expand that job description. His White House has a duty to push back against the 24-hour news cycle, every 24 hours if necessary, when it threatens to derail his agenda, the nation's business, or both. This was a silly summer, as wasteful in its way as the summer of 2001, when Washington dithered over the now-forgotten Gary Condit scandal while Al Qaeda plotted. The president deserves his share of the blame.