“Next year, in a world where the United States is held in much higher regard, most people will choose a president who takes time to get it right, rather than one who is afraid to dither for a good outcome”

Timothy Egan’s truly awesome NYT piece from today:

Five years ago a young politician who seemed wise beyond his years was asked by Tim Russert what makes a great president. It was the kind of question that Russert, who could prompt more news in a single interview than entire cable operations do in a year, was so good at.

The politician took a thought breath before proceeding: “Obviously, most of the time it seems that the president has maybe 10 percent of his agenda set by himself, and 90 percent of it set by circumstance.”

Barack Obama: meet your 90 percent. The senator who so accurately predicted how events make the leader now finds himself a president trying to lead through those events.

In the process, despite a largely incoherent chorus of second-guessers, Obama has settled into a groove of reflective dithering before making his decisions. For the most part, it has served him well.

Think back to … oh, all of one week ago. The mercenaries of Muammar el-Qaddafi were closing in for the slaughter of people trying to take a breath of the same Arab Spring air going around Tunisia and Egypt.

Had Obama done nothing, as the Dennis Kucinich fringe Democrats and the Ron Paul isolationist Republicans would have it, the blood of many civilians would be filling the streets of Benghazi. Don’t forget: the regime had promised to chase its own citizens into closets and butcher them.

Or, had Obama put U.S. troops on the ground, as the imperious former Bush “diplomat” John Bolton insisted, a humanitarian mission would now be seen as another superpower invasion of an oil-rich Arab nation.

In his deliberative fashion, Obama ultimately saved countless lives in the short term, and will allow the rebels in Libya to own their revolution in the long term, if they can push ahead — a big if, of course. In the meantime, the economic and diplomatic noose will tighten around Qaddafi and the people he pays to kill on his behalf.

What Obama wanted to avoid, as he discussed during that same Russert interview, was the “messianic certainty” that led President George W. Bush to start a disastrous, trillion-dollar occupation of Iraq. In putting together an international coalition, backed by a United Nations resolution and the Arab League — all in record time — Obama also pulled off a nice bit of statecraft. And, had he used another day to reach out to Congress, there would be much less criticism at home.

Still, Republicans can’t cope with a president who tries to think before he leaps. Mitt Romney, who wakes most mornings in a groggy scramble to find his principles, faults Obama for the nuance of his Libya policy. How dare the president see shades of gray instead of black and white!

Newt Gingrich first criticized Obama for not imposing a no-fly zone, but now hits him for imposing a no-fly zone. You read that right. “I would not have intervened,” Gingrich said a few days ago. This followed a statement, barely two weeks ago, where he said he would intervene “this evening.” And he now calls the air strikes over Libya the worst foreign policy blunder in his lifetime.

Overstatement and misjudgment are Gingrich’s stock in trade — two reasons why he’ll never be president. He can always be counted on to fulminate on demand, with consistency the only casualty; the subject doesn’t matter.

The real problem for Republicans is that they are perplexed over what position to take on an issue that defies partisanship. So, Obama’s least-thoughtful critics attack him for thinking.

Ponderous deliberation, which doesn’t sit well in an age when we all move information with our thumbs, has been a hallmark of the Obama presidency from the beginning. His 90 percent of circumstances started on Inauguration Day, when Bush handed him the worse recession since the Great Depression, and continued through an oil spill that nearly poisoned an entire ecosystem.

During the spill, it was liberal cable pundits who wanted a president who could shout, emote and point fingers. Instead, he quickly negotiated a $20 billion escrow fund from BP that attempts to make whole those hurt by the spill. Similar success followed with the auto bailout, which saved General Motors, but cost Obama much of his early political capital.

There are certainly inconsistencies in the Obama approach to Libya. Why not help the protesters who are clubbed and jailed by our ally in Bahrain? “Why invade Iraq and not North Korea or Burma?” Obama asked in one of his books. “We can’t arbitrate a civil war,” he argued. As president, those questions are no longer Hyde Park parlor debates.

A poll just published by Reuters/Ipsos found 48 percent of respondents describing Obama’s military leadership as “cautious and consultative.” Another 36 percent chose “indecisive and dithering.”

I would argue that the combined 84 percent are basically saying the same thing — that this president is anything but impulsive. And next year, with an improving economy in a world where the United States is held in much higher regard, most people will probably choose a president who takes time to get it right, rather than one who is afraid to dither for a good outcome.

*

And from the comments section of the column:

First, I wish to remind those who criticize the “Ditherer in Chief” of what Nicholas Kristof wrote yesterday: “The world took three-and-a-half years to respond forcefully to the slaughter in Bosnia, and about three-and-a-half weeks to respond in Libya.” During that three-and-a-half long weeks — long if you’re on the ground in Benghazi — Obama Administration officials were mustering cooperation and putting together a true coalition unlike that punchline “Coalition of the Willing” of Dubya’s day. Secretary Clinton was prodding Arab states to go along with a military mission. Ambassador Rice was nudging her colleagues in the United Nations.

As for engaging Congress, Obama did speak with Congressional leaders before he left for Brazil. Evidently, they forgot. If he had it to do over, Obama might have pulled a Reagan. According to a top aide of Sen. Dick Lugar, Mark Helmke:

“Reagan was much different than Obama. Reagan invited the bipartisan leadership to the White House – Lugar as SFRC Chair – and told them planes were on their way to Libya for the sole mission of taking out Gadhafi, because of the intelligence that he had personally ordered the murder on a US soldier at a Berlin bar. Reagan said if anyone objected, he would order the planes turned around. No one, including [Sen. Robert] Byrd, objected.” [via Ben Smith of Politico]

Admittedly, a game of chicken is a gamble, and Obama isn’t given to stunts. Still, it was a darned good stunt. Who in Congress would have wanted to be the one to say, “Whoa, we really have to let Gaddafi slaughter his people, even though the world leadership overwhelmingly favors imposing a no-fly zone”? (Okay, Dennis Kucinich or Ron Paul, but it might have been a good idea not to invite either Kucinich or Paul to the meeting.)

Finally, try to imagine President McCain (or — the fates forbid — President Palin). The whiners would have been begging for a ditherer. Whatever McCain might have done, be assured it would not have been thought through and it would have been disastrous. McCain hasn’t been much better at making consistent statements about the Libyan situation than Gingrich has. Two years ago, McCain was meeting with Gaddafi & urging Congress to sell arms to Gaddafi. The other day, while he was on the teevee criticizing Obama for his Libyan policy, he was boasting of the good ol’ days when we were arming the Afghan mujahedeen, evidently forgetting that one of those we armed was Osama bin Laden. As for Gingrich, he long ago completely discredited himself as anything approaching a serious person. But don’t pick on Mitt Romney for trying to find his principles — he finds new ones every day!

96 thoughts on ““Next year, in a world where the United States is held in much higher regard, most people will choose a president who takes time to get it right, rather than one who is afraid to dither for a good outcome”

  1. What an amazing piece.

    And, had he used another day to reach out to Congress, there would be much less criticism at home.

    I disagree slightly; I think that there would have been a ton of criticism regardless of what President Obama chose to do.

    But that is just first-class analysis. Thanks for bringing it to us, bwd.

  2. Totally agree with gn. If PBO found a cure for cancer, ended world hunger, and turned the deficit into a surplus…fringe Dems and rabid Repubs would still try to think of ways to nip at his heels. It never seems to end.

  3. LOL, he’s totally forgiven for his sweet innocence; can you imagine if Congress had more lead time to make a fuss and show out about this decision? Numerous people would have spent a great deal of time grandstanding.

  4. It has become a national pastime in the good ole US of A to comment on every and anything, whether people are acquainted with a situation, or know what they are talking about or not! Once there is a microphone or paper they spout forth both speculatively and negatively!
    Give me a so called ditherer who thinks through and eventually comes to productive solution, to those who knee-jerk, talk cockily into the microphone and then have to continually apologise to the nation for their do sh*t.

  5. As I said on the Obama Diary:

    Interesting read. However, I don’t like the affirmation being given to the Repug meme “dithering”. Even if Egan is calling it a virtue, that still endorses a concept that is not true of this President. Being deliberative is NOT dithering.

    And I am at a loss to see how making decisions at a speed that has never been accomplished is being called “dithering”. How long between when Bush went to the united Nations in October 2002 did the operations in Iraq actually start? How long before Clinton intervened in Bosnia, Kosovo? How long between Saddam Hussein’s annexing of Kuwait before Operation Dessert Storm began?

    Both naysayers and so-called defenders are putting this President through an impossible obstacle-course and when he surmounts the odds in breathtaking ways, they relabel his brilliance, “tardiness”. Moving goalposts all the time is what the corporate media and so-called liberal defenders routinely do with this President.

    And mark my words, when he is out of office, the next President will be coddled and treated with deference. Do you see any one say a word about the current GOP controlled congress’ do-nothing & drastically reduced work schedule? No. Tragic, really.

  6. “But did he cure diabetes??? He chose to cure cancer, but not diabetes. Why are cancer patients so deserving of a cure but he wants to let people with diabetes die. And stupid Obamabots are so admiring of their dear leader that they cheerlead his slaughter of diabetics. He’s worse than Bush!”

    /meltdown and tantrum

  7. I agree, GN. One thing that has been consistent throughout this presidency is that no matter what he does, there will be criticism. Luckily, he doesn’t let that criticism influence him in his decision making. Otherwise this was a great read.

  8. What’s new is that everybody is Pretend President right now. On the one hand, I love love love how the WH’s improvements regarding transparency give us an unprecedented window into some of the WH. I’m joyfully in the peanut gallery and love to observe it. Some folks take that waaay too far and believe that they (a) have all of the info. which POTUS has; and (b) simply have better judgment or are in some way superior to President Obama, thus, their critiques are not limited to constructive criticism but move into character attacks and outright bashing.

    We had a long and interesting discussion earlier this week about how much of this is attributable to racism, versus the Lord of the Flies mentality on the Internet, versus the frustrati theory, versus general as*hattery, versus a combination of all of the above.

  9. I see this as one of GWB’s most harmful legacies to this country. Intelligence and thoughtful deliberation is now seen by many as a weakness and “going from the gut” without weighing consequences is somehow seen as a positive trait. Hopefully, after 8 years of this president leading the way, we, as a country, will begin to realize that outcomes matter and “going with the gut” is feckless and dangerous and not a trait to be admired.

  10. About the “D-” word – one thing I digested a few years back, reading and discussing George Lakoff on “framing,” is that we should never, ever use the opposition’s loaded words when we discuss the issues. Even Obama makes that mistake when he talks about health reform and “d-panels” and so forth.

  11. That was pitch perfect, gn! LOL and it shows just how empty and ridiculous so much of the criticism we hear really is. You can make a template that can be filled in with whatever the outrage de jour may be.

    “Why did/didn’t he do/not do whatever the opposite action is to what he chose? Anyone who doesn’t see that he is completely wrong/evil/controlled by anti-American forces is being completely blind and is nothing but a mindless Obot/cheerleader/subversive. He’s just like Bush/Hitler!”

  12. The “dithering” meme is just a bash. But you know what, if what President Obama accomplished by cobbling together an international consensus, or helping France to cobble together said consensus, creating a very focused and limited objective which was not neocon in nature (=/=imperialism; the objective is to prevent atrocity, not become an extension of the rebellion)—if that’s dithering, I’ll take it any time. What’s amazing to me is that those most responsible for pushing this specific meme learned zip zilch nothing from the disastrous runup to the Iraq War in which several well-meaning Dems co-signed Bush’s bs to their later consternation.

  13. LOL, there you go: that’s the “President Obama sucks!” narrative in pure form. They just fill in the blanks, story by story.

  14. My point is that we should not accept it in any way shape or form. That only lends credence to what is outrightly FALSE.

    Do you see the GOP accept any of the labels (and I say justifiable) that Democrats use to describe George Bush or any Repugs? No they don’t. They never ever accept our descriptors. So why should we theirs? Lakoff’s warning should always be in our minds.

    WE. SHOULD. NEVER. VALIDATE.WINGNUT. FALSE. MEMES. NO EXCEPTIONS. Period.

  15. So utterly true. “With me or against me” lack of grey areas…everyone is herded into “love it” “hate it” camps with absolutely no nuance allowed; and just as you said, overreacting to everything (a great commenter at thepeoplesview named it “governing by tantrum”) and just feeling one’s way through situations rather than gathering facts and making thoughtful decisions. I think that the purity folks’ mistake is that they did help to replace Bush, but never signed onto a totally different way of thinking which can prevent that sort of leadership from ever being seated again.

  16. I doubt if any leader in this country (with the possible exception of Lincoln) has ever been in the “damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t” situation as much as President Obama. But part of his genius is that always bases his decisions on the “what is the bets and at the same time possible thing to do?” appraoch.

    He, more than anybody I have ever seen, is fully aware of the law of unintended consequences and takes that into account in his decision making. He is steady in his approach to things, not going whichever way the wind is blowing on a given day. He is well aware he may pay a price politically for some of his actions, but also has a basic belief in the deceny of people and their ultimate recognition of what is the right thing to do.

  17. An interesting story about Bush’s famous, “You are either with us or against us” statement.

    My son is in the Army, and at one of his officer training classes they had a speaker who was an officer for the military in an African nation which is nominally an ally and friend of the US. That offficer very plainly said that that statement scared the hell out of a lot of countries. They didn’t know what it meant. They were friends of the US, but did it mean that if they didn’t go along with everything that Bush wanted that they would now be considered an enemy?

    That statement, along with the infamous “bring it on” bluster, was a major negative in our world relationships.

  18. What a great article! It is sad that having a thoughtful President is considered a bad thing.
    I also wish everyone would stop using the word “dithering” it’s insulting to the POTUS. When I see that word I hear Palin’s ugly voice.

  19. It’s truly like before and after. I am so celebrating the return of nuance to our political discourse. Indeed; very interesting story.

  20. Not to mention Bush bribed, threatened, extorted countries into joining the “coalition of the willing”.

  21. “First thought, best thought” (Ginsberg) might work well for poets but it isn’t the mantra I want the CIC of the United States to live by. When making a decision in my own life that impacts all of my family members guess I could be accused of “dithering” too because I take my time, consider all the angles and consult with people.

    Getting a coalition together in the time frame of three and a half weeks IS miraculous when you stop to think about it. Kudos to SOS Clinton, Ambassador Rice, and the President. May the Libyan people stay safe and achieve their dreams.

  22. Rep. Connie Mack will not challenge Bill Nelson for his senate seat in Florida. He was probably the best GOP candidate, but decided to pass for family reasons.

    What I found interesting in reading about his decision is that he’s married to Rep Mary Bono-Mack, she of course representing her district in California.

    Husband is a Rep in Florida, wife is a Rep in California. Do they live primarily in Cali or Florida? Or maybe split the difference and live in central Texas?

    Huh.

  23. Indeed. And, numerous Libyans would be dead or injured while those Congresspersons plied their partisan trade.

  24. WH announces First Lady’s upcoming commencement speeches: University of Northern Iowa, Spelman College & Quantico Middle High School.

  25. As an aspiring writer, I can say that Ginsberg was wrong. To make the first thought truly the “best” thought then requires a lot of work, which changes that first thought. So, even for poets it doesn’t work.🙂

  26. You’d think that with 42 years in power, Gaddafi’s coterie would be better at staging propaganda. From the BBC liveblog:

    In Libya, the BBC’s John Simpson was among a group of foreign journalists bussed to the suburb of Tajoura, which was targeted by international forces last night. “Nearby we were shown a farmhouse that had supposedly been hit,” he says. “There were fragments from a missile lying around and a smallish hole in the ground where something had possibly landed. But the holes in the wall that we were told were shrapnel could only have been the result of someone firing an auto rifle at it. And although the farmer, a strong Gaddafi supporter, said his 18-year-old daughter had been injured, the gardner said it was a four-year-old boy. It all looked like a rather inadequate set-up, done for effect.

  27. That Spelman commencement is going to be OFF THE HOOK! They are going to lose their minds in Atlanta!

  28. Syria will be tricky, but hopefully not as bloody as Libya. From the BBC liveblog:

    The BBC’s Lina Sinjab in Syria says protesters in Deraa were chanting for freedom and criticising Maher Al-Assad, the president’s brother and the head of the presidential guard. She says protests around the protests around the country are unprecedented in recent Syrian history and despite the violence and bloodshed, it appears that Syrians are losing their fear of their rulers.

  29. Thom Hartmann was making the point that Congress did have time to discuss Libya – 3-1/2 weeks. They knew what was going on and that some people were calling for the US to get involved in a NFZ. So, why didn’t they take time out from restricting women’s rights, ignoring jobs and other silliness, to bring this discussion to the floor. Truthfully, they really don’t want to have to make the decision. It’s just easier to criticize from the sidelines while hanging on to your ‘ideals.’

  30. Anyone looking for an update about the commenter, g, who had a health challenge:

    My friends, sorry for going OT. Just got home from a major medical appointment, and I.WAS.CLEARED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I took aggressive action without looking back, and I understand that is not for everybody, but it was for me. May you all stay safe and healthy. Thank you for all your support.

    Great news.

  31. Man, the events are moving too fast in the middle east all of a sudden. I can’t imagine how the WH and the State Dept are handling the chaos right now.

  32. Oh, that is great news. I’ve been worried about her. Thanks for bringing the news over.

  33. It is indeed great news. Thank you gn for sharing it. I was wondering about g just this morning.

  34. It should be quite lively. Wish I knew someone graduating so that I could attend.

  35. yes they are I think its a matter of time for khadaffy. No money, cant fly out and losing ground.

  36. No wonder Hilary wants to exit after PBO’s re-election. SoS must be the most stressful job after that of POTUS.

  37. h/t triniprincess@wsy:

    Kucinich: No intent to seek impeachment of Obama over Libya

    Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) is denying any plans to seek the impeachment of President Obama over the U.S. involvement in Libya.

    Kucinich recently raised the question of whether Obama could be impeached for leading the U.S. into a conflict — to enforce a United Nations-backed no-fly zone — without going to Congress first.

    “I asked the question as to whether that was an impeachable offense; that’s different than actually calling for an impeachment or inducing a resolution, which I am not intending to do,” Kucinich told Fox Business Network Thursday. “I am speaking to the limits of executive power.”

    Kucinich said that, in 2007, then-Sen. Obama (D-Ill.) and then-Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.) had raised the specter of impeaching President George W. Bush over American military involvement in the Middle East.

    “So I am in the same company with the now vice president and president with respect to the fact that the Constitution should be adhered to,” Kucinich continued.

    http://weeseeyou.com/2011/03/25/friday-open-thread-77/#comment-171556306

    *****************

    And he *still* cannot get himself to admit that President Obama does. not. equal. President Bush. At least he walked this tantrum back quite a bit, so I’ll credit that.

  38. As an experienced writer I can vouch for “First Thought Best Thought” in that it gets something, anything on the page. You can’t edit something that hasn’t been written. First thought by-passes fear and over analyzing and shaky self-esteem. Get it on the page first, then fix it.

  39. The rights ego is crushed their foreing policy brought nothing but more attacks and hate. What they can’t understand is how President Obama is able to call for change and equal rights is now bringing on the cry for democracy. their cowboy diplomacy did not work and now the world sees.

  40. I don’t think we disagree. Get the thought on the page, but then work at it. That was the hardest part of getting the novel started. Once the word was on the page, the rest just came, and now I’m blissfully reworking and expanding.

  41. However it won’t get near the coverage. Like newspapers blasting an erroneous headline on the front page and then correcting it in a blurb on the back page.

    The guy is a clown who tried to fundraise on the specter of impeaching President Obama. Period. He can’t unscramble that egg.

  42. Each country is different. Some just need watching and some need no-fly zones. I doubt it is chaos in DOS, just very busy.

  43. While I would much prefer a successful primary from another Democrat and the Dems holding that seat as they retake the House, I won’t shed tears if Kucinich gets redistricted out of a job.

  44. Well, here’s a bit of a “huh” moment:

    Reuters flashes an interesting news line from Libyan state TV: Col Gaddafi has apparently promoted all members of the armed forces.

    Reminds me of Hitler promoting General von Paulus to Field Marshal at Stalingrad, because no German field marshal had ever surrendered.

  45. Indeed, I found that whole, “well I was just asking a question” hedge to be pretty unconvincing.

    How hard is it to say: “I was mistaken; I thought that the base felt like me, it wasn’t true, I overreacted, and I was simply wrong.”

  46. Thank you, once again, BWD – for a grand topic!

    One of my favorite parts of the NYT opinion piece is this one, which intends to describe Newt Gingrich, but really covers the PL, right wing, teafolk, and many others:

    “He can always be counted on to fulminate on demand, with consistency the only casualty; the subject doesn’t matter.

  47. Great news, indeed! Thanks for sharing. (Take care of yourself, “g”!)

  48. Debz – Of course, the writer is using “dithering” as a stab at people like Palin – a good slap in the face for them (oh, I’m feeling that a little too much) – but I know what you mean. I cringe every time I see the word. Wasn’t it first coughed up by Cheney?

  49. Lincoln got bashed heavily for the civil war during his time. As a matter of fact many historians agree that no president had to go through so much like he did.

  50. Most of my first thoughts evolve into something different than their original form, they start out like a Christmas tree with a few elegant and monochromatic ornaments and by the time I’m done there’s tinsel, fifty strands of blinking lights, some angel hair, and a boatload of tinfoil stars. Thankfully I believe that The President’s thought process is much more streamlined and less chaotic than mine.😉.

  51. Two contrasting views.

    First:
    Abdul Monem in Stafford, UK, writes: “Most people in Tripoli say that in the last weeks people have lost confidence in Gaddafi and are secretly supporting the rebels. Mine and my wife’s family are in that number. “Bye bye Gaddafi”, many say in their homes. “Just wait until they get you!”

    Then:
    Nader in Cardiff, UK, writes: “For those who doubt who is loyal to Gaddafi – there are people who simply love him, who consider him the only legitimate representative of Libya, his tribe and other tribes who support him and lately Libyans who are against the foreign intervention. Are there Libyans who don’t like him? Of course there are. But we can’t ignore that there are also many who support him and are loyal to him.”

    Who is right? Of course, I would prefer that the first correspondent is correct. However, even the most unpopular dictator has a base of supporters, people who will stand by him even when everyone else has abandoned him. Hopefully, Gaddafi’s base of support will whittle away to nothing, or at least to a level where it can’t withstand the rest of Libya’s people.

  52. Yes this did come from cheney. I do understand the writer was taking a stab at Palin & other nuts, but that word just gets to me.

  53. All I can say GN is WOW! You absolutely captured the nature of people who will never, and I mean NEVER, be satisfied with any thing President Obama does.

  54. Of course Kucinich had to walk it back — the president does not need congressional approval if he’s following a UN Security Council resolution. Perhaps if he’d done a little research before opening his mouth, he wouldn’t have to take his foot out of it now.

  55. Wanted to share this letter written by someone who lives in Japan and survived the earthquake and tsunami, I thought it was topical considering the events around the world and the fact that as each day passes it becomes clearer and clearer that all of our destinies are intertwined. And in my mind are the Japanese people struggling to survive this disaster, the people of the Middle East struggling to determine their own futures and the American workers of the midwest struggling to retain their rights.

    ” First I want to thank you so very much for your concern for me. I am very touched. I also wish to apologize for a generic message to you all. But it seems the best way at the moment to get my message to you. Things here in Sendai have been rather surreal. But I am very blessed to have wonderful friends who are helping me a lot. Since my shack is even more worthy of that name, I am now staying at a friend’s home. We share supplies like water, food and a kerosene heater. We sleep lined up in one room, eat by candlelight, share stories. It is warm, friendly, and beautiful. During the day we help each other clean up the mess in our homes. People sit in their cars, looking at news on their navigation screens, or line up to get drinking water when a source is open. If someone has water running in their home, they put out sign so people can come to fill up their jugs and buckets. Utterly amazingly where I am there has been no looting, no pushing in lines. People leave their front door open, as it is safer when an earthquake strikes. People keep saying, “Oh, this is how it used to be in the old days when everyone helped one another.” Quakes keep coming. Last night they struck about every 15 minutes. Sirens are constant and helicopters pass overhead often. We got water for a few hours in our homes last night, and now it is for half a day. Electricity came on this afternoon. Gas has not yet come on. But all of this is by area. Some people have these things, others do not. No one has washed for several days. We feel grubby, but there are so much more important concerns than that for us now. I love this peeling away of non-essentials. Living fully on the level of instinct, of intuition, of caring, of what is needed for survival, not just of me, but of the entire group. There are strange parallel universes happening. Houses a mess in some places, yet then a house with futons or laundry out drying in the sun. People lining up for water and food, and yet a few people out walking their dogs. All happening at the same time. Other unexpected touches of beauty are first, the silence at night. No cars. No one out on the streets. And the heavens at night are scattered with stars. I usually can see about two, but now the whole sky is filled. The mountains are Sendai are solid and with the crisp air we can see them silhouetted against the sky magnificently. And the Japanese themselves are so wonderful. I come back to my shack to check on it each day, now to send this e-mail since the electricity is on, and I find food and water left in my entranceway. I have no idea from whom, but it is there. Old men in green hats go from door to door checking to see if everyone is OK. People talk to complete strangers asking if they need help. I see no signs of fear. Resignation, yes, but fear or panic, no. They tell us we can expect aftershocks, and even other major quakes, for another month or more. And we are getting constant tremors, rolls, shaking, rumbling. I am blessed in that I live in a part of Sendai that is a bit elevated, a bit more solid than other parts. So, so far this area is better off than others. Last night my friend’s husband came in from the country, bringing food and water. Blessed again. Somehow at this time I realize from direct experience that there is indeed an enormous Cosmic evolutionary step that is occurring all over the world right at this moment. And somehow as I experience the events happening now in Japan, I can feel my heart opening very wide. My brother asked me if I felt so small because of all that is happening. I don’t. Rather, I feel as part of something happening that much larger than myself. This wave of birthing (worldwide) is hard, and yet magnificent.”

  56. They don’t understand him. Maybe if they take a moment to look at his history, where he came from they will be able to figure out that you don’t this far in life without knowing where you are going.God bless him and keep him safe.

  57. Zizi, I think Eagan was being sarcastic. At least that’s the way I understood what he was trying to do in his use of the word “dithering”. I didn’t see his piece as endorsing “the Repug meme.” Rather, I thought Eagan was cleverly showing his contempt of the idiotic and empty reasoning by critics of Obama, who have absolutely no clue about what to do about Libya. I do, however, share your outrage about the way President Obama has been treated compared to other presidents before him.

  58. My thoughts exactly. SOS Clinton will be sorely missed. She is the 2nd hardest working person in our government…only 2nd to the President. I bought the issue of People and she is amazing.

  59. My point a couple days ago about dysfunctionals hating Obama: one way this plays out is that competent grounded people seek information before major decisions. Dysfunctionals make snap decisions mostly by gut reaction then spend their time rationalizing them or merely suffering the consequences. They do not trust those who ponder because they are not familiar with it and just naturally assume their way is best.

  60. Thank you for sharing your friends letter with the community. Our prayers are with Japan and all the people there.

  61. Most welcome jojo, it is from a friend of a friend and wanted to share it because I felt that the message was universal.

  62. Although I have no way of verifying this, I am quite sure President Obama’s “First Thought” was that some thing must be done to prevent Qaddafi from annihilating the Libyan people. After that first thought, he still had to choose the best method to do it right. It is the next step to implement one’s first thought that requires more thought and reflection about possible consequences of the choice of action to be taken.

    So, Tien Le, while I think writers can fix their mistakes I don’t think the CIC who is faced with the option of authorizing a military action has the same advantage as a poet to fix his mistakes.

    I don’t remember the name of the song, or the name of the singer, but listening to the critics of the President, who accuse him of “dithering,” I am reminded of the advice in a song about love: “only fools rush in.”

  63. LL, Thanks for the info. on Syria. I think people in the Middle East (West Asia) have been bottled up for so longer that they are finally beginning to burst out of the bottle. I don’t think this explosion will be easily contained. I also think that they feel emboldened because they know that the United States elected a president who welcomes change and who will no longer engage in the politics of expediency under the guise of protecting American interests.

  64. The speech he’s going to give Monday night is supposed to be about Libya, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s broader than that, setting out his policy towards all these outbursts of democratic yearning.

  65. Thank you so much for that bit of great news!!!!!She has been in my thoughts every time I’m here…which is daily:)Please send our love and best wishes.

  66. Last night on Lawrence O’Donnell’s show (yes, I watched it) Andrea Mitchell opined that NATO would never be able to decide on a commander….this wouldn’t work, etc. etc. I yelled at the screen….but today on the way home this afternoon I heard the BBC news…a voice of sanity. A Canadian general has been appointed by NATO to oversee the No-Fly Zone. Of course….brilliant…..Canada is both French and English and is respected around the world. I sense the fine hands of the President and SOS in this decision.
    As others people have said, the news people are whiners and mad because the President doesn’t consult them and give the inside info. I heard that when he was in the Illinois legislature, he was a superb poker player.

  67. “At least he walked this tantrum back quite a bit, so I’ll credit that.”

    Oh, gn, you are faaar more generous than I!

  68. What a gem ofa column. I actually enjoyed reading (most) of the comments. That is rare. This one brought a tear to my eye:

    Stephen Rifkin
    North Adams, MA
    March 25th, 2011

    “He will be known as the great teacher– of patience, thoughtfulness, diligence, tempered and considered action, and his instinct for non- polarizing inclusiveness– and, as a great teacher, he teaches by example. He leads a talented, hard-working team to strive and achieve results without showiness. Our young president Obama has the makings of a great one. After the disastrous and cynical last administration– lucky us”!

    I hope and pray America wakes up and starts noticing the profound statesmanship that we are witnessing.

  69. Hello, I’ve been lurking on this site from its conception and I find a lot of great info here. I found this comment on Mr.Egan’s piece.Wow! this captures all my annoyance with the Libyan media coverage.#193:

    >Andrea Mitchell Reports (as an example) President Obama and End of Constitution

    I think part of the uproar in this Libyan “all consuming” hand wrenching reporting is media and pundits in cahoots with a few of their favorite Congresspersons, et al, feel they have not been adequately solicited, or not at all in matters of the White House Libyan strategies.

    Now it is becoming common wisdom amongst the media and ancillary “people “in the know – who have served many administrations” the president “MUST” give an Oval Office address….to discuss the “Libyan End game.” What? Has he not spoken almost everyday about what the mission was…that we were there for one purpose to save lives, but our policy was had different goals? Why is that hard to understand….Time out folks,

    “You can all think for yourselves.”

    Are these not the same people who just a few days ago were arguing President Obama was “dithering” (not putting Americans at risk without legal world authorization) by not just going in to Libya, you know, “John Wayne” style? The subtext of this media angst, or peeve is “How dare this president take actions without giving us in the media a thorough explanation of prior war planes, and the best thinking amongst your principles.”

    We viewers, it seems are now at a point where media and pundits have completely thrown off any disguise at objective reporting. They are now totally editorializing the pros and cons of military actions, presidential prerogatives, Obama’s personal capabilities and a host of other matters not at all germaine to this Libyan situation. For example, if you watch Andrea Mitchell reports, my gosh, you would think she and her guests have gotten the “VESPERS.”

    Apparently this is because they have a sense of being overwhelmed by what this president has done. There seems from her, guests and others in her strata, that more animus is being directed toward President Obama defeat and comeuppance (or “Obama” as he is commonly referred) than to Qaddafai’s destruction?

    Imagine that our president is being more the villain than the the enemy’s leader? At the point of military action when American lives first became engaged, Congress is bickering with him about his authority to be Commander In Chief, is it any wonder Qaddafi says he will outlast us. These statements challenging POTUS authority at onset of military actions, by too many to be named so called responsible parties, have just been Shameful… There has been more of an effort to defeat Barack Obama, the man, rather than Qaddafi the slaughterer. SHAMEFUL, SHAMEFUL- that’s my editorial!

    This whole Libyan (end of the world uproar) is so very similar to the “Gulf Oil Spill” crises where the big President Obama wrap was not emoting. Also, that he didn’t do anything to stop the oil from leaking either. Yet, before the “end-of-the-world-oil-spill” was over (that he and U.S. Government didn’t have anything to do with being resolved) he extracted in agreement for more than twenty-billion dollars from BP to cover all of the claimed “end-of-the-world” expenses. Yet, he was still criticized for getting money from the BP as extortion. However, the media didn’t nearly play up that $20Billion feat in any way comparable to playing up his not “emoting” enough.

    So, now with this “Libyan end of Constitution” move by the president, the new pejorative of “Dithering” has become a so called slam against President Obama because he does not “Chest – Thump” and neither rush head long to expose US Troops to risk. Remember, President Reagan didn’t “Dither” either before sending a number of Marines into Lebanon, where more than two hundred eighty died. He certainly didn’t “Dither” getting them out in a hurry. Mission not accomplished on the lives of brave and good Americans….but Regan looked like a warrior…huh?

    In the main, this seemingly out of control furor is that we have a press corp. that is more inclined toward middle school cliques and food fights than the sensibility in reporting on topics which encompasses totality of an assumed objective. There is just too much collegiality within the media where critical reporting is stymied by friendships within their cocktail New York to Washington, DC cocktail circuit axis.

    First the media’s responsibility to us out here in the hinterlands to assure we receive calm factual information is to separate reporting rumor and gossip for what now passes for journalism. And so we beat on…

  70. Man, do I miss Tim Russert. No way Sarah Palin would have been on John McSame’s ticket and we would be free of her stunning stupidity.

  71. What a terrific comment, tourofthabay. Thanks for finding it and sharing it with us. It’s gratifying to see person after person totally catching on to the excesses of some of the national media, and how poorly some of them are serving this country. It would be more gratifying to see reform in this area, but at least it seems as if people are not trusting some of the awful “reporting” which is in actuality editorializing with an anti-POTUS slant (as your comment very well states).

  72. I totally agree, Bobfr.
    Also, I hope they can develop some other skills as much as they have the partisan negative comments, because some of them will still be around for a while.

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