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She the People
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Posted at 04:08 PM ET, 05/02/2012

Obama Optics: The president visits Afghanistan

The optics were not quite right.  You. Could. Hear. A. Pin. Drop. Not a creature was stirring as the Commander in Chief spoke to the assembled troops Wednesday morning at Bagram Airforce base in Kabul. The president, fresh from a pitch perfect performance at the White House Correspondent’s Dinner, flew to Afghanistan for a meeting with President Hamid Karzai about the U.S. withdrawal of troops. The speech announcing an agreement for a “firm time line” for troop withdrawal was fine. But the soldiers were too quiet.

Maybe it was just noise filtering audio equipment but the lack of ambient noise especially in a place we’ve come to associate with bombs and IEDs going off, felt too quiet.  To me, the still, quiet, room during the made for headlines speech and photo op made the event feel slightly over-produced.

The full-on election season kicked off this spring as predictably on schedule as cherry blossoms in leap year.  In Washington, the quadrennial circus is in town campaign vibe is intense right now. Both parties are getting in shape for their big summer political conventions. As they each work on their metaphorical trapeze acts, the production values get visibly better quality -- like competing network TV shows during ratings sweeps.  

The President’s perfectly calibrated delivery to the political press Saturday, followed by his surprise visit to Afghanistan under dark of night to deliver a predawn speech of leadership and support for the troops were as well received among the faithful as the fourth season of “Mad Men” to its most loyal fans.  What’s more, the trip occurred on the anniversary of the Osama bin Laden raid and the campaign has missed no opportunity to remind voters that the Obama team had removed the man responsible for knocking down our towers, killing so many of our people and waging a religious war against our democratic values.

For his part, former governor Mitt Romney outlasted his opponents (notwithstanding the deep reluctance of Rep. Ron Paul and Newt watch-this-space Gingrich to fire their staffs and call it an election) and he comes to the main event eager to unroll his performance. The GOP all-but-nominee is vetting VP choices, scrubbing his Web site, and assembling advisors. (To extend the metaphor just a bit further, his first choice high wire act foreign policy adviser was not ready for the “big tent” big top, but these things happen, and the putative Republican candidate has a decent safety net.)   

President Obama must be weary, as he starts to lose top people at his gruelingly unrelenting main gig, and experiences sticker shock over how many more people he needs on the bus as an incumbent than he did four years ago by hijacking Hillary and rolling into Chicago with millions of voices cheering, “Yes, we can!” 

This is a different election and this time he is a sitting president. It is a function of politics that Barack Obama will morph into a slow-jamming, Osama victory lapping, Afghanistan hopping campaign creature.  We can expect more examples of governing in public as the months to November go by.  

Only, to the young military men and women in the audience there was no political agenda. Their boss was telling them they could soon go home join their families and begin a post war life.  No wonder they were listening so hard.

Bonnie Goldstein has stepped up her listening @KickedByAnAngel on Twitter.

By  |  04:08 PM ET, 05/02/2012

Tags:  Afghanistan, President Obama, Campaign2012

 
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