With President Obama wrapping up his first 100 days in a largely choreographed press conference, what is there to say about this particular chapter of eternity? Softballs from the assembled Washington press corps included one in which a New York Times reporter wondered about Obama’s level of “enchantment” with the office. The toughest question was apparently the one about the now infamous “water-boarding as torture” controversy. Would the President, who states he would use any means necessary to protect the American people, ever consider authorizing “enhanced interrogation techniques” if it could be shown they would get the information needed to perhaps prevent an imminent terror attack? Basically the President said “no”. It was his view that other means could be employed to get the information.
Now this is all quite a surreal situation. First, the question was not very good. It has been presented in many places before not just to the President. Hypothetically, would you torture someone if you thought it could get information that would save lives? You can’t know this unless you define “torture” and secondly, you are posing a hypothetical emergency situation, which by any description is an exception. The proper way to treat this subject is with a principled approach. Define your limits and proceed accordingly. It is not an appropriate discussion to have in a press conference.
Having said all that, the President did not field the question on “water-boarding” with much political acumen. The great pragmatist has left himself vulnerable to major criticism should the memos that allegedly reveal the practical success of “enhanced interrogation techniques” be released.
But this was just another press conference and I’m getting used to the President’s dulcet tones permeating the airwaves. The saturation has long ago reached the point where one can easily distinguish the “teleprompter” speech from the “uh, uh, uh …” moments of extemporaneous comments. These are not the only distinguishing characteristics of Obama’s omnipresence however. There is a certain political effort on his part to convey the message that he is a very concerned and anxious president left with the inheritance of one of the greatest governmental messes in history. This situation he assures Americans can be overcome if “we” all work together toward some common goal, set by him of course. He further reminds people that the road traveled may be difficult, and the economy for example may take some time to recover. It is as though he wants to leave his options open to justify a second term at this early juncture. If the several years of recession that are most likely ahead, and the job of remaking the US into a greater welfare/nanny state is not completed perhaps the voters will give him another four years to get it done. Yes, the campaigning never stops, and if free network time subsidizes the greater good, why not?
Copyright 2009 Edward Podritske