COMPARTMENTALIZING…. When thinking about the qualities an effective president must have, some of the first things that come to mind are probably pretty generic: a president should be smart, well informed, have a strong moral center, exercise sound judgment, have the ability to lead, communicate, and inspire, etc.
But modern presidents in particular must also have an ability to compartmentalize. John Dickerson had a good piece last night, noting a president “is occupied by a lot more than the public can see.”
The presidency distorts the brain like perhaps no other job on Earth. In the First Noggin, there must be many compartments locked double tight, so the president doesn’t show anything on his face. Sometimes he must keep secrets even from the people who work down the hall. But each box has to be accessible immediately if a decision needs to be made. Sometimes the contents of these boxes are difficult and profound questions about life and death. Other times, they concern merely a president’s political fortunes — which appeals to the ego, making them perhaps even more difficult to control. And all the while, there are legions of journalists and opponents trying to pry open these little boxes through force, shame, and flattery.
The most acute recent moments of compartmentalization for Obama had to have been Friday and Saturday. On Friday he gave the final order and then flew to Alabama to visit with families ravaged by the recent tornado. He ended the day in Florida visiting with Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and her astronaut husband. On Saturday he attended the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner, where he had to tell jokes and sit through a comedy routine during which everyone watched his every facial twitch for insights into his psyche.
On just April 19, President Obama hosted an Easter Prayer Breakfast, held a town-hall meeting, attended meetings on immigration policy, and chaired one of the final National Security Council meetings on raiding Osama bin Laden’s compound.
Last week, after the White House presented the long-form birth certificate Republican activists had been clamoring for, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said the president is too “worried about birth certificates.” Priebus added, “I just wish the president would engage in the real issues that are affecting America.”
Reince, I’m pretty sure he is engaging in the real issues, even when we don’t see it on camera.