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Opinion: Selectively Presidential: Obama Chooses To Be Presidential When It's Convenient

The Right Politics

President Barack Obama, once again, had an opportunity to have a presidential moment when Hurricane Sandy moved to the nation’s Eastern shores on Monday. This time, the president chose the proper avenue by being quite presidential and by suspending his campaigning to address the impactful event that is inconveniencing Americans all along the East coast as well as inland areas with its devastation.

The response the nation is seeing from President Obama now is the Americans typically see in the expected-demeanor of their president. Unfortunately, Americans have not seen this type of response from President Obama often enough during his time as our president. The reason why there has been an absence of a presidential stance from Obama has been clear. First and foremost, he has spent much of his time during his presidency “campaigning” – some would say as much as three years of his time in the White House have been constantly responding to situations which indicated his eye was more on 2012 rather than running the country for the moment.

This, in itself, creates a tremendous block to a president appearing presidential. Campaign mode puts a politician in the constant act of attacking the potential contender for the political position he holds. Also, campaign mode constantly puts a politician on the defensive. Neither trait – on the constant attack or on the constant defense – is presidential in appearance or nature. And, President Obama has been campaigning for as long as many people can remember.

A recent example of President Obama not responding to a national concern in a presidential manner, of course, was when he responded to the Benghazi, Libya attack which occurred on September 11, 2012. The reasons for the non-presidential actions in September are now said to have been a form of cover-up for the tragedy which killed four Americans including Ambassador Christopher Stevens. That time, President Obama quickly dismissed the attack as a response to a video which insulted persons of the Islamic faith in the Middle East rather than admitting the obvious – a 9/11 attack against Americans.

While the president’s current response to the national concern with Hurricane Sandy is appropriately admirable, Americans should not excuse nor forget Obama’s inappropriate response to the 9/11 attack of 2012 in Benghazi, Libya. President Obama is now doing what is expected of him, while on September 11 of this year, he most definitely did not. The September 11 tragic event is a situation which still needs to be explored, investigated, and explained fully. As President Obama has suggested himself, anyone who did not react responsibly during the time of the murders in Libya has to be called out. As he has not suggested, but Americans are now demanding, anyone who did not react responsibly should be called out, including him – the president.

Back to the most recent national concern of Hurricane Sandy, President Obama’s message is clear that he – as well as emergency-response personnel throughout the east coast – needs the cooperation of all citizens involved. It is understood that emergency responders should not have to risk their lives to respond immediately when people do not want to participate with the safety plan of moving to higher ground – as many reportedly have not done.

This time, Obama’s directives have been clear, appropriate, and respectfully appreciated. His announcement that the presidential campaign – on his part – must wait until the national threat via Sandy has appropriately passes is a responsible request and action on his part. Of course, this does not mean that GOP presidential challenger Mitt Romney has the same responsibilities. He can continue his campaigning. Looking and being presidential on Obama’s part and campaigning on Romney’s part is an even divide given their differing responsibilities. There ought to be no criticism of either candidate for the stance they are talking this week during Hurricane Sandy.

When the storm and its headlines have passed, however, the questions about the Benghazi tragedy should continue full force as November 6 continues to near. During the much-needed questioning and impending investigation, it would be grand if President Obama would remain presidential throughout the process.

About Scott Paulson

Scott Paulson writes political commentary for and teaches English at a community college in the Chicago area. The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of CBS Local.


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