In his column today, Richard Cohen pens a blistering assessment of President Obama’s omnipresence on television, his handling of the Iran nuke issue and his inability to take a stand on an issue and see it through.
For a crisis such as this, the immense prestige of the American presidency ought to be held in reserve. Let the secretary of state issue grave warnings. When Obama said in Pittsburgh that Iran is “going to have to come clean and they are going to have to make a choice,” it had the sound of an ultimatum. But what if the Iranians don’t? What then? A president has to be careful with such language. He better mean what he says.
The trouble with Obama is that he gets into the moment and means what he says for that moment only. He meant what he said when he called Afghanistan a “war of necessity” — and now is not necessarily so sure. He meant what he said about the public option in his health-care plan — and then again maybe not. He would not prosecute CIA agents for getting rough with detainees — and then again maybe he would.
Most tellingly, he gave Congress an August deadline for passage of health-care legislation — “Now, if there are no deadlines, nothing gets done in this town . . . ” — and then let it pass. It seemed not to occur to Obama that a deadline comes with a consequence — meet it or else.
I keep thinking of this scene from the Godfather and wondering when someone is going to go Don Corleone on Barry.