Nerves of steel

NERVES OF STEEL…. There’s a whole lot of inanity in Fred Barnes’ new piece for the Weekly Standard, in which the Republican pundit outlines all of the reasons he “fears” Barack Obama. It’s tempting to go paragraph by paragraph, highlighting every error of fact and judgment, but let’s just take a look at the last of Barnes’ fears.

Obama has nerves of jello. This fear may be unfair, since there’s no evidence one way or other as to how he might react in a crisis. David Shribman of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wrote that Obama “possesses an enviable inner calm.” Maybe, maybe not. What Obama does have is an enviable outer calm. Inside, he may be wracked with doubts and anxiety as he takes over the presidency. We don’t know. The problem is he’s never had to make a truly tough decision.

Presidents with strong nerves are decisive. They don’t balk at unpopular decisions. They are willing to make people angry. President Bush had strong nerves. President Clinton, who passed up a chance to eliminate Osama bin Laden, did not. Obama is a people pleaser, a trait not normally associated with nerves of steel.

Now, I can’t speak to Obama’s grace under fire. He certainly doesn’t seem to be “wracked with doubts and anxiety,” but I don’t know him personally. I guess we’ll see.

But Barnes’ criteria for inner strength seem terribly odd: “President Bush had strong nerves. President Clinton, who passed up a chance to eliminate Osama bin Laden, did not.” This seems entirely backwards. Bush, when told the United States was under attack the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, sat frozen. Instead of reacting, he read a children’s book for several minutes, and then flew directionless around the country for a while. His “strong nerves” did not serve him well in responding to failed policies in Iraq, or a devastating storm in New Orleans. A person of “strong nerves” does not generally feel the need to avoid people who might confront him/her with contrary information.

And Bill Clinton did not “passed up a chance to eliminate Osama bin Laden,” he did the opposite, launching strikes against terrorist base camps, and nearly killing the al Qaeda leader.

I continue to wonder what the weather is like in Barnes’ reality.