A classic of the genre

A CLASSIC OF THE GENRE…. The teaser paragraph highlighting Maureen Dowd’s NYT column yesterday said, “President Obama is no doubt on top of the Christmas terror crisis in terms of studying it top to bottom. But his inner certainty creates an outer disconnect.”

My very first thought was, “I’ll bet everything I own that she makes another ‘Spock’ reference.” And sure enough, just as she did two columns ago, Dowd returned to her preferred cliche.

Alas, that wasn’t the worst part of the column. Dowd’s basic pitch is familiar: the president is calm and on top of things, and that’s just awful. Her column makes note of Obama’s “mental and emotional control,” but it’s intended as criticism, not praise.

No Drama Obama is reticent about displays of emotion. The Spock in him needs to exert mental and emotional control. That is why he stubbornly insists on staying aloof and setting his own deliberate pace for responding — whether it’s in a debate or after a debacle. But it’s not O.K. to be cool about national security when Americans are scared.

Wait, what? When the public is scared about a terrorist threat, it’s not all right for the Commander in Chief to be calm and in control? Isn’t this backwards? As tristero put it, “In fact, being ‘cool about national security’ or other potential emergencies (say, huge, city-wrecking hurricanes) is exactly what I want my government to be. I want — expect — reasoned, intelligent responses from my government to the problems we face. That’s what I voted for, not hysteria or phony displays of emotional connection.”

Dowd concluded:

[The president is] so sure of himself and his actions that he fails to see that he misses the moment to be president — to be the strong father who protects the home from invaders, who reassures and instructs the public at traumatic moments.

He’s more like the aloof father who’s turned the Situation Room into a Seminar Room.

It’s almost as if Dowd has become a parody of herself.

Matt Yglesias’ response was spot-on: “Sorry, no. The Situation Room is not a Seminar Room, but it’s also not the Reassuring Dad room. It’s a place where the President meets with key officials to decide what to do in response to emergencies. The “moment to be president” starts when you swear the oath of the office and it ends when your successor takes office. And the job is to make decisions that reflect a realistic assessment of the risks, of the available policy options, and of the costs and benefits involved in the different options. Reassuring children is a job for parents. Treating adults like they’re little children is, perhaps, a job for newspaper columnists.”