I was at the gym, minding my own business, when the President took over all of the televisions in the room to make his big announcement:
The plan is...that there is no plan.
At first, I wasn't even sure it was him. Here was this old man, hunched over in a khaki suit from a Nantucket beach wedding, gripping the lectern as if it were a walker. He was grandfatherly in his passivity. Looking at him, I had the distinct impression of a man glancing at the clock, waiting for the work day to end. His one piece of good news was that GDP is up, so everyone can relax and go out and buy the new iPhone.
So much of politics is theater. Stagecraft. The ability to embody, speak and project power. And when a man so possessed of rhetoric totters about like he's King of the Nursing Home, it's heartbreaking to those of us who bought what he was selling. Hope, and all that.
This summer has been a jarring one for the world, full of serious crises, Ukraine, Ferguson and Iraq. Each place has suffered from the invisibility of our president.
He may have the most dysfunctional Congress in history, and he may have averted another depression and he may have reformed health care, but he cannot stand there and say, "There is no strategy yet." Even his MSNBC cheerleaders looked apoplectic.
Perhaps in that first debate with Mitt Romney, Obama showed his true self unintentionally. Bored. Arrogant. Above It All. Maybe as his presidency wanes, we will see more and more of this Obama, who thinks that Al Sharpton is a legitimate leader. Or maybe he's planning to write a great American novel about the wonderful wizard who had all of the solutions to all of our problems but nobody would listen to him.
Whatever his post-presidency plans are, we suffer as a people for his lack of leadership and attention. I'm assuming that he is turning an exhaustive amount of attention to these issues behind closed doors, but his inability to connect with people en masse -- something we know that he can do, when he puts in the effort -- is stoking our national apathy. He looks and acts, in short, like a man beat down.
While the president dithers and golfs, the world burns. Hundreds of thousands have died in Syria, where chemical weapons -- despite his "red line" -- were used as recently as April, according to new reports. The primary lesson that Obama seems to have learned from the bumbling Bush is don't act too quickly and gather more intelligence. That's all well and good, but the opposite extreme of being an inept Decider-in-Chief is being the Ditherer-in-Chief, unable to decide up from down, left from right. Obama didn't even seem to know whether he wanted to take questions, walking away from the podium and returning as if he'd accidentally left his Blackberry behind.
Imagine if FDR had strolled out and say, "The only thing we have to fear is...hold on, let me get back to you on that, I need to consult with some regional partners." When you're in charge, the illusion of confidence is everything, even if you're wishing you were back on Martha's Vineyard.
The wars in Syria and Iraq have been raging for years, and today we learn that there is no strategy yet. The Obama Doctrine is do nothing and hope it all goes away. But please, Mr. President, turn on the charm and lie to us a little. Let us sleep at night knowing our Commander-in-Chief is not asleep at the wheel.