When Obama waits for the facts

Dan Gordon and Richard Baehr
Sometimes President Obama knows enough to refrain from speaking when he does not have the facts at his command. Witness these words:

"It took us a couple of days because I like to know what I'm talking about before I speak," Obama said testily. "All right?"

He said these words when he tried to respond to an earlier media frenzy raised by his Administration's approval of large bonuses for employees at AIG, a firm rescued by the Federal government in  2008 with a bailout of over $150 billion. When pressed as to why it had taken several days for the Administration to express any outrage over the bonuses paid to employees of a company that had, in effect, failed, and then been bailed out of their self inflicted misery by taxpayers.

In his most recent press conference, President Obama got himself in some trouble when he accused the Cambridge, Massachusetts police force of having behaved stupidly by arresting his friend, Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates.   The comment, which was delivered in a very passionate, energized fashion, followed Obama's admission  that Gates was a friend, and that he did not know the real facts  and circumstances of what happened at Gates' house.  When Obama's poll numbers started dropping very rapidly after his press conference comment became a huge media story, and his health care agenda became background noise for a few days, Obama tried to defuse the story by saying he had not calibrated his words well, and that his comments had added fuel to the controversy.   This is as close to an apology you will ever get from this President as to his own behavior. Apologizing for his country 's alleged misdeeds, of course,  seems to come much more easily and naturally. 

In any case, Obama could have avoided the Cambridge contretemps entirely, by simply saying, he did not know all the fact, and left it at that.  That would have been consistent with his comment just a few months earlier in the AIG incident.

It also took Obama a few days to express any anger at the Iranian government for firing on, and arresting demonstrators after the recent fraudulent election in that country. Obama claimed in this case that he did not want to interfere in Iranian internal politics. . Interfering in Israeli internal politics is of course, different, and allowable. In the case of Iran, Obama probably saw his grand plan of a diplomatic breakthrough with that country, a strategy dripping in delusional self-regard for his own transformational power, shattered, and so he did not want to bring any more attention to the approach, which might now have seemed to many, embarrassingly naive.

So is there a pattern with these Obama statements?

Knowing the facts is clearly not the issue that determines whether he has an opinion to offer. Politics certainly seems to play a role, particularly when comments are not offered. But certain things seem to matter enough to Obama that he throws political calculation to the wind.

We see this with regard to his intense public pressure on Israel, and his harsh comments in the Gates affair. So why did Obama speak out on Gates, but not on Iran's thuggish regime, or AIG bonuses?

Because our first post-racial President cares very much about race, especially as it relates to successful blacks like him. He seems to care less about the Treasury and AIG's contribution to the federal deficit or Iranian human rights.  

And why does he treat Israel more contemptuously than any President since the founding of the state? Probably because he regards Israel, as he does Officer Crowley, as stupid, and wrong. 
Sometimes President Obama knows enough to refrain from speaking when he does not have the facts at his command. Witness these words:

"It took us a couple of days because I like to know what I'm talking about before I speak," Obama said testily. "All right?"

He said these words when he tried to respond to an earlier media frenzy raised by his Administration's approval of large bonuses for employees at AIG, a firm rescued by the Federal government in  2008 with a bailout of over $150 billion. When pressed as to why it had taken several days for the Administration to express any outrage over the bonuses paid to employees of a company that had, in effect, failed, and then been bailed out of their self inflicted misery by taxpayers.

In his most recent press conference, President Obama got himself in some trouble when he accused the Cambridge, Massachusetts police force of having behaved stupidly by arresting his friend, Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates.   The comment, which was delivered in a very passionate, energized fashion, followed Obama's admission  that Gates was a friend, and that he did not know the real facts  and circumstances of what happened at Gates' house.  When Obama's poll numbers started dropping very rapidly after his press conference comment became a huge media story, and his health care agenda became background noise for a few days, Obama tried to defuse the story by saying he had not calibrated his words well, and that his comments had added fuel to the controversy.   This is as close to an apology you will ever get from this President as to his own behavior. Apologizing for his country 's alleged misdeeds, of course,  seems to come much more easily and naturally. 

In any case, Obama could have avoided the Cambridge contretemps entirely, by simply saying, he did not know all the fact, and left it at that.  That would have been consistent with his comment just a few months earlier in the AIG incident.

It also took Obama a few days to express any anger at the Iranian government for firing on, and arresting demonstrators after the recent fraudulent election in that country. Obama claimed in this case that he did not want to interfere in Iranian internal politics. . Interfering in Israeli internal politics is of course, different, and allowable. In the case of Iran, Obama probably saw his grand plan of a diplomatic breakthrough with that country, a strategy dripping in delusional self-regard for his own transformational power, shattered, and so he did not want to bring any more attention to the approach, which might now have seemed to many, embarrassingly naive.

So is there a pattern with these Obama statements?

Knowing the facts is clearly not the issue that determines whether he has an opinion to offer. Politics certainly seems to play a role, particularly when comments are not offered. But certain things seem to matter enough to Obama that he throws political calculation to the wind.

We see this with regard to his intense public pressure on Israel, and his harsh comments in the Gates affair. So why did Obama speak out on Gates, but not on Iran's thuggish regime, or AIG bonuses?

Because our first post-racial President cares very much about race, especially as it relates to successful blacks like him. He seems to care less about the Treasury and AIG's contribution to the federal deficit or Iranian human rights.  

And why does he treat Israel more contemptuously than any President since the founding of the state? Probably because he regards Israel, as he does Officer Crowley, as stupid, and wrong.