07/01/2013 08:00 am ET Updated Aug 31, 2013

Obama Debunks the White House

The Snowden storm has suddenly and surprisingly been reduced to a zephyr -- at least as far as the Obama White House in concerned. No longer the diabolical traitor who has put America in peril, he has been reduced to the verbal status of a "hacker" by the president himself. The imagery now is of some kid in his parent's attic with a Walmart laptop rather than a highly skilled NSA employee with a Top Secret security clearance and the responsibilities of a systems administrator. No longer are we wringing our hands about all the evil-doers out there who now have the scales drop from their eyes in realizing that Washington is spying on them. No longer do we shiver at the prospect of China and Russia knowing that we do to them what they try to do to us. We are assured by National Security Director to-be Susan Rice that those dire forecasts are "bunk" -- "bunk" uttered within the past few days by Hagel, Dempsey, Kerry, Hillary, Donilon, Biden, Clapper, Alexander et al. Rice, close confidant of Obama, has resumed her role as the White House's designated spinmeister first auditioned on the Benghazi affair.

Why this drastic tacking away from pugnacity? Has the White House taken a crash course in anger management? Has it finally undertaken a sober, systematic review of the matter that is generating a newfound prudence? No -- of course not. It's all political calculation and image management -- the standard modus operandi of the Obama presidency. There are two core truths about this White House that are always manifest: how you appear counts more than what you do; and the lodestar is right-wing, establishment sentiment that Obama is convinced represents the true essence of American thinking/feeling. And he is afraid of them.

Like a magnetic needle, he nearly always orients himself in that direction. Certainly, it always exerts the strongest pull. So it's not the dismay about revelations of massive government surveillance that he feels he must address. Rather, it is the Republican criticism that his administration has been lax in permitting such a devastating leak. It follows that an all-out campaign should be launched to downplay it. Anyway, walking away from thorny problems is his natural reflex.

So what about the national debate/conversation on domestic spying that Obama solemnly promised just a week ago? Gone with the fickle winds of a denatured White House. He did show up on Charlie Rose a week ago but the president plans no further address to the nation. Some sort of sponsored workshop of experts and academics is in the works around July 9. We are reassured though by Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes that Obama will get around to it. Indeed, we are told: "It's something the president wanted to get to; privacy concerns certainly have been on his mind." It's "just not been at the forefront." I guess we should keep our eyes on the Oprah Show this summer.