The first item in today’s Morning Jolt deals with a item first seen . . . right here on Campaign Spot yesterday morning:
The Racket Over Obama’s Bracket
It’s quite flattering to write something, and then come back a short while later and find it’s been “liked” on Facebook more than 1,000 times. Last time I checked, it was at 4,000. Usually I feel pretty pleased if it gets, like, 10. So . . . thanks to all who hit the “like” button.
However, a few folks thought the incongruence between Obama taking time to tape an appearance on ESPN making his NCAA Tournament picks while one of our closest allies grapples with a crisis dire enough to order 140,000 people to seal themselves indoors . . . well, unworthy of such ridicule. James Joyner: “In an update, [Geraghty] notes that Obama also attended a DNC fundraiser for the 2012 run. This is all amusing enough. Pundits and jokesters never tire of juxtaposing world events with presidential leisure and I presume Domenech and Geraghty are just engaging in that time-honored tradition.”
Allow me to put this a bit clearer . . .
We don’t know what’s going to happen in Japan. We know circumstances are bad — more than 3600 dead, at least 7,000 still missing — and the circumstances may get worse. (A bunch of Jolt readers haven’t enjoyed the dire tone of the first two editions of the week, offering somewhat compelling arguments that the circumstances in Japan’s nuclear plants could still resolve themselves with minimal loss or injury of human life. But I don’t like counting on the best-case scenario, and we’ve been hearing the ‘oh, this isn’t as bad as it sounds’ all week, with continuing explosions and ominous signs coming every few hours. I don’t want to unduly alarm anyone, but I don’t want to whistle past the graveyard, either. Who do I look like, Janet Napolitano? I know, I know, she looks a lot more manly than I do . . .)
So if the Ides of March 2011 or some day shortly thereafter is destined to be remembered as one of the decade’s darkest days, in which the winds shifted in a bad way and a radioactive cloud headed towards one of the most densely populated corners of the planet . . . well, if I were in Obama’s shoes, I wouldn’t want the history books to say, “that day, the President of the United States was taping his NCAA tournament picks on ESPN when he was notified of the tragedy.” I’m not saying the president has to spend the whole day furrowing his brow over maps of Japan. I realize our government is already sending help and we have limited ability to do much more. I’m just saying that at a moment of crisis, it probably would be wise for the Leader of the Free World to set aside one of his wackier and lighthearted annual rituals. Tone matters. Ask Gilbert Gottfried.
It’s also worth recalling that the immediately preceding president was demonized, seemingly endlessly, for A) continuing to listen to a teacher read “My Pet Goat” after being informed of the 9/11 attacks, refraining from causing a panic among children before him; B) a photo of him holding a guitar was used to insist that he somehow ignored Hurricane Katrina; C) his line “now watch this drive” was used to assert that somehow Bush was lazily golfing while the war on terror raged . In other words, our friends on the Left already established the standard that a president dare not be seen doing anything less than fully appropriate focus while a crisis is occurring, anywhere in the world.
Keep in mind, in the past week, as the budget negotiations, the deteriorating situation in Libya and the Japan crisis have been big issues one, two, and three, the president has found time for not just bracket picks and a DNC fundraiser but the bullying summit, a ceremony with the Chicago Blackhawks, a round of golf, the Gridiron dinner, a meeting with “student finalists of the Intel Science Talent Search 2011 competition”, a speech at a school in Arlington, a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen of Denmark in the Oval Office, discussing “the close ties between the United States and Denmark,” and a weekly presidential address focusing on “Women’s History Month.” Wednesday he’s got another fundraiser.
It’s almost as if he’s looking for things to do other than deal with these big pressing issues. Keep in mind, it’s not just me who sees a president punting and avoiding decisions on big, pressing issues; during this time, the administration has defined the president’s approach to the Middle East as “strategic reticence” and friendly columnists like Ruth Marcus are forced to acknowledge that Obama is a “passive president . . . unwilling, reluctant or late to weigh in on the issue of the moment.”
Also, it’s not as if he’s particularly good at the tournament picks.
If Obama had some sort of Karnak-like brilliance with the picks, you would almost understand it . . .
UPDATE: I like this nice gesture by the president:
“President Obama opened up with a plea for bracket participants to keep the people of Japan front of mind, saying, ‘One thing I wanted to make sure that viewers who are filling out their brackets — this is a great tradition, we have fun every year doing it — but while you’re doing it, if you’re on your laptop, et cetera, go to usaid.gov and that’s going to list a whole range of charities where you can potentially contribute to help the people who have been devastated in Japan. I think that would be a great gesture as you’re filling out your brackets.’ . . . President Obama’s 2010 men’s bracket ranked 2,337,604 overall, placing him in the 51st percentile out of the 5.4 million entries in the ESPN Tournament Challenge. While he didn’t predict any of the Final Four teams last year, he correctly picked North Carolina to win the National Championship in 2009.”