President Obama’s chief of staff, Denis McDonough, on Sunday pronounced the president “madder than hell” about the Veterans Affairs scandal. In fact, “Nobody is more outraged about this problem right now,” he said. Balderdash. Certainly the families of dead veterans who were never treated are madder. Veterans themselves are madder. But this is now a habit for the Obama team — appropriating others’ anger so they won’t be angry at him.
It was the same story on the disastrous Obamacare rollout. Then, too, he was emphatic that “nobody’s madder” than the guy whose legislative crown jewel it was. The Internal Revenue Service scandal? Yup. He was “angry” then too.
What’s up with the “madder than anyone” routine? For one thing, it takes the place of being remorseful or embarrassed. It’s a way of distancing himself from the scandal and making others responsible. It’s also a way of trying to disarm his critics and the true victims. Hey, GOP critics of Obamacare aren’t really angry; he’s the really angry one!
It is telling what angers and doesn’t anger the president. Is he angry the Palestinians walked out of the peace process and unilaterally tried to establish a Palestinian state by joining a bunch of international organizations? If so, he didn’t say. Angry about Vladimir Putin lying to him about Russian actions? He didn’t say. Angry at Iran for foot-dragging in negotiations and for its refusal to allow International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors to view nuclear facilities? If so, he doesn’t say.
Obama also experiences “enormous frustration” over Syria, not shame for failure to act or guilt for the 150,000 deaths that might have been prevented had he acted swiftly before jihadis arrived.
It seems Obama is angry when people might blame him for an executive failure or abuse. We should feel sorry for him, or be in awe of his anger for failures, scandals and gross errors that very plainly are his responsibility. He can play the bystander or pretend to be a victim, but there are real victims of his own bureaucracy’s overreach (in the IRS scandal), of his deliberate inaction (in Syria) and of his own lack of executive prowess (in the case of Obamacare).
It would be nice if he became angry enough about injustice and mass murder to act on behalf of Syrian innocents — but that might require action. It would be encouraging if he became angry enough with Russian aggression to push ahead with sector-wide sanctions. That too would require robust action.
Alas, in the case of Obama, “anger” and “frustration” are simply buzzwords that reflect the degree of the narcissism (it’s all about him, no matter what the tragedy) and refusal to accept responsibility that plague this president. Obama’s lofty view of himself proved to be inaccurate, and his grandiose vision of remaking the country and America’s role in the world resulted in a string of foreign policy disasters. But the only one he should rightly be angry with is himself. A lot of Americans sure are.