Tuesday, May 29, 2012

President Obama as Counter-Puncher (updated)

In the course of a week, we've now been privy to two behind-the-scenes looks at President Obama. The first one focused on the campaign and now we see one about his leadership on the war against Al Qaeda. What some people will say about these exposes is that they have been planted by the Obama administration. I'll agree. You don't get access to people like Plouffe, Axelrod, Messina, Brennan and Holder without a planned strategy. But I still highly recommend that you read both articles in their entirety because they provide very useful information about the man who is our President.

There's no way to easily summarize what you'll learn from reading these articles. But one thing did stand out to me - what moves President Obama. Each article describes a pivotal moment where the President's position and strategy either deepened or altered.

Here's the example from the first one about the campaign.
Even before heading away on holiday, Obama had arrived at a decision to reboot his presidency again. “One thing about him is that he always salvages something from defeat,” Axelrod observes. “He saw we were up against a nihilistic minority; if they were willing to plunge the United States into default, you had to conclude that reason’s not gonna prevail. And we had a fragile economic situation that was exacerbated by their antics. So, for reasons of politics and the economy, he needed to come out firing after Labor Day, lay out an aggressive plan, and take his case to the country. His conclusion was that if we’re gonna move the ball forward, we’re gonna do it by galvanizing the American people, not by trying to cut deals in quiet rooms.”
Most everyone who watches politics noticed this moment. The President's frustration with Republican antics that actually weakened our economic recovery was pretty visible for all to see.

The example from the second article was not as visible, but pretty stunningly described.
The attempted bombing of an airliner a few months later, on Dec. 25, stiffened the president’s resolve, aides say. It was the culmination of a series of plots, including the killing of 13 people at Fort Hood, Tex. by an Army psychiatrist who had embraced radical Islam.

Mr. Obama is a good poker player, but he has a tell when he is angry. His questions become rapid-fire, said his attorney general, Mr. Holder. “He’ll inject the phrase, ‘I just want to make sure you understand that.’ “ And it was clear to everyone, Mr. Holder said, that he was simmering about how a 23-year-old bomber had penetrated billions of dollars worth of American security measures.

When a few officials tentatively offered a defense, noting that the attack had failed because the terrorists were forced to rely on a novice bomber and an untested formula because of stepped-up airport security, Mr. Obama cut them short.

“Well, he could have gotten it right and we’d all be sitting here with an airplane that blew up and killed over a hundred people,” he said, according to a participant. He asked them to use the close call to imagine in detail the consequences if the bomb had detonated. In characteristic fashion, he went around the room, asking each official to explain what had gone wrong and what needed to be done about it.

“After that, as president, it seemed like he felt in his gut the threat to the United States,” said Michael E. Leiter, then director of the National Counterterrorism Center. “Even John Brennan, someone who was already a hardened veteran of counterterrorism, tightened the straps on his rucksack after that.”
I believe these two incidents paint a picture of President Obama that some of us have noticed for a long time now, but others have completely missed. As I've said before, those folks have gotten trapped in their either/or thinking and missed "Obama as the counter-puncher" who is always open to working with you. But when crossed, he'll crush you.

Update: I was remiss in not pointing out that both of these incidents tell us a lot about WHAT motivates the counter-puncher in President Obama. In neither case was it someone going after him personally. Both situations involved a threat to the American people. In the first case it was the Republican's political power plays threatening the economic recovery and in the second a very real physical threat to Americans by Al Qaeda. That also tells us a lot about who this man is.


  1. Mahalos for this post, SP! I got your link off the obama diary!

  2. Well said. This man is focused on protecting our country and doing it with the least danger to our people. He values the lives of the troops and if he can get the job done without endangering them that's what he does and to hell with his critics and second guessers. Can you imagine what those same critics would say if an airplane had been blown up?