Obama's Fort Hood reaction screw up

Times:

President Obama came in for growing criticism over the weekend for his “insensitive” handling of the bloody shoot-out in Fort Hood, Texas, where 13 people were killed by a Muslim officer in the US Army.

Mr Obama is not scheduled to arrive at America’s largest military base until tomorrow to attend a memorial service for victims of Major Nidal Malik Hasan, the Army psychiatrist who opened fire on a group of unarmed soldiers.

The President’s jarring absence from Fort Hood — in contrast to a low-key visit by the former president George Bush on Friday — is not the only element of his response to the tragedy that is bothering his critics, Democrats and Republicans alike.

In particular, much has been made of a transcript of the press conference where Mr Obama first gave his official response to the mass shooting. The President opened his remarks — he was attending a Tribal Nations Conference for America’s 564 federally recognised Native American tribes — with jocular “shout-outs” to various people in the audience. Only later did he turn his attention to the attack, saying: “I planned to make some broader remarks. But as some of you have heard, there has been a tragic shooting.”

“(Obama) did not appreciate the gravity of what he represents,” Brad Blakeman, a former deputy assistant to George Bush, told Fox News. “He should have begun his official remarks with the tragedy. The fact that he used colloquialisms like ‘shout out’ — and was so cavalier at the beginning — was a reflection of his inability to be presidential. He’s not comfortable enough in his role yet.”

Unusually, the liberal Boston Globe agreed. In an editorial at the weekend the newspaper said: “It takes more than scripted eloquence for Presidents to connect with fellow Americans. It requires a visceral ability to grasp the scope of tragedy, calculate its impact on the national psyche, and react swiftly. Obama missed the first moment to show he understood how much it hurt.”

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I watched the statement and was surprised how awkward it was. At first I thought the media had been mislead about what to expect and by the time he got around to the subject he did not look very presidential. I suspect that scene is going to be replayed by his opponents.

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