I watched President Obama’s remarks regarding the killing of Osama Bin Laden by a heroic and courageous team of American operatives with a Democrat and an Independent. After the president’s nine minute re-cap, instead of being euphoric with the news, all three of us were troubled by the president’s delivery of the long-awaited confirmation.
Said the independent who does not follow politics at all and is -- like many Americans -- more concerned with her family and its wellbeing, “I did not like his credit-grabbing. That really bothered me.” The Democrat in the group also said that he found the president inserting himself so much into such a momentous announcement “somewhat offensive.”
As someone who once worked in the White House and know a bit about communications I was honestly surprised that the president and his team took the time to load his remarks into a teleprompter instead of just having him read from some prepared notes. As the networks kept telling their viewers that the White House was delaying the president’s announcement, I was trying to guess why. Once I saw him walk up to the podium in the East Room and start to read from the teleprompter it seemed evident to me that the President had mostly likely done a read-through once or twice in another room prior to addressing the nation.
Regardless of teleprompters or rehearsal time, the larger issue for the three of us and others I have since spoken with, was the president’s “credit-grabbing” sprinkled liberally through-out the remarks. Later, I went to the White House website and watched the remarks again as well as reading the White House transcript. At least ten times he said “I,” “I’ve,” and “My.” As in, “I directed Leon Panetta…I met repeatedly…My national security team…I determined…At my direction…I’ve made clear…I’ve repeatedly made clear…I, as Commander-in-Chief...” Okay. The president did and does seem to be spiking the “exploit the situation for personal and political gain” football in an egocentric way.
With regard to his reference to the head of the CIA, he said, “And so shortly after taking office, I directed Leon Panetta, the director of the CIA, to make the killing or capture of bin Laden the top priority of our war against al Qaeda, even as we continued our broader efforts to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat his network.”
Curious statement. I called a friend of mine who spent his career in the intelligence business and asked him about the president’s comment. “Gee,” he said. “I thought the capture or killing of bin Laden had been our top priority for ten years. I did not realize it only became a priority when Mr. Obama took office.”
This person also said that he was very disappointed that the president did not thank or acknowledge the team who took out Bin Laden and the professionals who supported them until the very end of the remarks. “It was almost like an after-thought.”
In retrospect, it might have been much better for all concerned if the president had simply walked out, not read from a teleprompter, announced the operational success, acknowledged and thanked the American heroes who put their lives on the line, thanked those who spent the better part of their careers and lives hunting Bin Laden, and underscored that a debt had been paid to the families and friends who lost loved ones on 9-11 and then walked away from the podium.
Two minutes at the most. Respectful. To the point. With no hint or accusations of “credit-grabbing” or partisan politics.
Maybe next time.