On Friday, after a firestorm of criticism about President Obama’s failure to lead on Libya and his refusal to articulate his goal(s) for the war, the White House, in a typical late afternoon “news dump,” announced he would talk to the country on Monday. Think about that: Most presidents can’t wait to blast out their national addresses; this one tries to slip his about-face by the media before the weekend. That of course will only increase the scrutiny of administration figures going on the Sunday talk shows.
I spoke to a seasoned Republican communications guru about the president’s weird approach. The communications guru observed that until Friday’s announcement, the approach had been to disperse administration figures and try to avoid talking about it. “It is as if they sat around the situation room and said: ‘Here’s what we’re going to do: ‘President Obama is going to go to Brazil, and the VP is going to Delaware to have a train station named after him .’ ”
But the country knows we are engaged in a major military action, knows the United States is running the show and knows the president isn’t really focused on foreign OR domestic policy. The president’s reticence has only annoyed the liberal base (which reflexively opposes military action) and made it hard for conservatives to defend his policy.
Bill Kristol writes:
In the case of Libya, though, we do suspect that the president knows that we — and he — can’t afford to lose. So Obama won’t cut and run. Nor should we underestimate the capabilities of the American military, and Qaddafi’s weakness and vulnerability. And to be fair to the Obama administration, the United States has fought previous wars—and won them—with muddled goals, mixed messages, and less than inspiring leadership. The outcome in Libya could well be satisfactory.
We should hope so. But we should also vigorously try to influence the president to demonstrate the leadership that is essential to win not only this conflict but others, too. Recall that in the Afghanistan war strategy rollout, critics railed against the July 11 deadline for beginning a withdrawal; the administration began to immediately backpedal and eventually replaced that with the 2014 date. In the Libya operation, criticism has forced the president to the microphone to make his — and America’s case — for action. And for that, liberal and conservative critics deserve credit. Now, let’s see if Obama can impress on Moammar Gaddafi, our allies and our adversaries around the world that we have no qualms in using American power to advance our security interests.