While not a new criticism, the sad plight of the Central American children highlights a pattern of President Obama’s detachment in the face of problems. This isn’t just a matter of not visiting the border, although that was really stupid. Since when has any president eschewed photo ops? What else to conclude but that this president will only visit disasters that make him look good? And to belabor my point a bit more: If you can’t figure out how to make the best of such a visit, you’re not trying hard enough. After all, the president has an army of advanced people to pick a backdrop, the Secret Service to create a bubble and a captive press corps to transcribe it all.

President Obama delivers a statement after his meeting with local elected officials and faith leaders on July 8 in Dallas. Obama requested $3.7 billion in emergency funding from Congress to help cope with a surge of unaccompanied child immigrants from Central America. (Jewel Samad/Agence France-Presse via Getty Images)

“Not trying” is the phrase that stays with me. As it has happened repeatedly in his presidency, Obama too often sounds like a frustrated commentator than an engaged, passionate president. Too often he thinks merely describing the right course is the whole voyage when he hasn’t even left the dock.

Understandably, Obama is frustrated after six years of breaking his pick on Republican rocks. He doesn’t bother to hide it, saying constantly he “gets” that not much progress will be made in such a partisan atmosphere, but, hey, couldn’t we at least do some modest immigration reform? Distancing himself from the dysfunction of Washington stopped being cool a long time ago. We don’t need another cynic in Washington; the Republican House has plenty of them. Rather, we need someone who still believes in capacity to lead. That kind of president might have gone down to the border and made things interesting.