Sometimes something strikes you as a odd about a a choice someone has made. You find it somehow defines the person making it, even if you’re not sure how, like when a friend who never particularly liked a certain genre of movie suddenly takes an interest in that genre. Or when he stops talking about a subject that once fascinated him.
You think it means something, but you’re just not sure what.
Such was my thought when I had read that the President has scheduled his Thursday speech “shortly after news surfaced that [former Vice President Cheney was planning his. Aides scheduled it for the hour just before the former vice president’s planned appearance at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think thank.” It struck me as oddly reactive that the President of the United States would time an address to coincide with that of a critic.
It seemed more a campaign tactic than a mark of bold or effective leadership. As if he still feels he’s running against someone. But, it seemed there was more to it than that. I just couldn’t quite put my finger on it.
But, where I failed, Toby Harnden and William A. Jacobson succeeded. Building on Harnden’s observation that “the very fact that Obama chose to schedule his speech (Cheney’s was announced first) at exactly the same time as the former veep was a sign of some weakness,” Jacobson offers:
I think it’s more than weakness. Rather, Obama seems uncomfortable with dissenting voices being heard without a rebuttal. The war of words is one Obama is confident he can win if only he is heard, which is why Obama constantly is holding prime time press conferences, giving major speeches, and so on. While the need to counter-schedule a speech to offset Cheney’s previously planned speech reflects weakness for sure, it also reflects a lack of faith on Obama’s part in the ability of the American people to decide important issues.
I don’t think we’ve ever seen a President so ubiquitous. If Obama is constantly preparing for and making public speeches, he necessarily has less time to think seriously about issues and consults with advisors–and even opponents–on the matters facing the country.
There is something more to it than this. It may be that Obama, unlike Reagan, lacks a clear political philosophy which he believes is best for the nation. He can’t just put ideas out there and let the American people consider them on their own. He has to put himself out there.
If he had confidence in his ideas, he would have more faith in the American people. Or maybe he just needs to convince himself. And that’s why, as Jacobson put it, he seems so uncomfortable with dissenting voices. That remind him of his own uncertainty.