Maureen Dowd / Hitting singles won’t do, Mr. President
What happened to that guy who was always swinging for the fences?
May 1, 2014 12:00 AM
Stop whining, Mr. President.
And stop whiffing.
Don’t whinge off the record with columnists and definitely don’t do it at a press conference with another world leader. It is disorienting to everybody, here at home and around the world.
I empathize with you about being thin-skinned. When you hate being criticized, it’s hard to take a giant steaming plate of “you stink” every day, coming from all sides. But you convey the sense that any difference on substance is lese-majeste.
You simply proclaim what you believe as though you know it to be absolutely true, hoping we recognize the truth of it, and, if we don’t, then we’ve disappointed you again.
Even some of the chatterers who used to be in your corner now make derogatory remarks about your manhood. And that, I know, really gets under your skin because you think they just don’t get your style of coolly keeping your cards to yourself while you play the long game. Besides, how short memories are. You were the Ice Man who ordered up the operation that killed Osama bin Laden.
I also appreciate the fact that it’s harder for you than it was for JFK, W. and all those other pols who had their rich daddies and their rich daddies’ rich friends to buy anything they needed and connect them up and smooth the way for them. That gives them a certain nonchalance in the face of opprobrium and difficulty, a luxury that those who propel themselves to the top on their own don’t have.
We understand that it’s frustrating. You’re dealing with some really evil guys and some really nutty pols, and the problems roiling the world now are brutally hard. As the Republican strategist Mike Murphy says, it’s not like the campaign because you have “bigger problems than a will.i.am song can fix.”
But that being said, you are the American president. And the American president should not perpetually use the word “eventually.” And he should not set a tone of resignation with references to this being a relay race and say he’s willing to take “a quarter of a loaf or half a loaf,” and muse that things may not come “to full fruition on your timetable.”
An American president should never say, as you did to the New Yorker editor, David Remnick, about presidents through history: “We’re part of a long-running story. We just try to get our paragraph right.”
Mr. President, I am just trying to get my paragraph right. You need to think bigger.
An American president should never say, as you did Monday in Manila when you got frustrated in a press conference with the Philippine president: “You hit singles; you hit doubles. Every once in a while, we may be able to hit a home run.”
Especially now that we have this scary World War III vibe with the Russians, we expect the president, especially one who ran as Babe Ruth, to hit home runs.
In the immortal words of Earl Weaver, the Hall of Famer who managed the Baltimore Orioles: “The key to winning baseball games is pitching, fundamentals and three-run homers.” A singles hitter doesn’t scare anybody.
It doesn’t feel like leadership. It doesn’t feel like you’re in command of your world.
How can we accept these reduced expectations and truculent passivity from the man who offered himself up as the moral beacon of the world, even before he was elected?
As Leon Wieseltier wrote in the latest New Republic, oppressed and threatened swaths of the world are jittery and despairing “because the United States seems no longer reliable in emergencies, which it prefers to meet with meals ready to eat.”
The New York Times’ Mark Landler, who traveled with the president on his Asia trip, reported that Obama will try to regain the offensive, including a graduation address at West Point putting his foreign policy in context.
Mr. President, don’t you know that we’re speeched out? It’s not what we need right now.
You should take a lesson from Adam Silver, a nerdy technocrat who, in his first big encounter with a crazed tyrant, managed to make the job of NBA commissioner seem much more powerful than that of president of the United States.
Mr. Silver took the gutsy move of banning cretinous Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling for life after many people speculated that there was little the NBA chief could do except cave. But Mr. Silver realized that even if Mr. Sterling tries to fight him in court (and wins) he will look good because he stood up for what was right.
Once you liked to have the stage to yourself, Mr. President, to have the aura of the lone man in the arena, not sharing the spotlight with others.
But now when captured alone in a picture, you seem disconnected and adrift.
What happened to crushing it and swinging for the fences? Where have you gone, Babe Ruth?
Maureen Dowd is a syndicated columnist for The New York Times.
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