Unusually emotional, President Obama declared himself “heartbroken” by the brutal murder of an American journalist, James Foley, and vowed to “be relentless” against Islamic radicals threatening to kill another American.
But as soon as the cameras went off, Mr. Obama headed to his favorite golf course on Martha’s Vineyard, where he is on vacation, seemingly able to put the savagery out of his mind. He spent the rest of the afternoon on the links even as a firestorm of criticism erupted over what many saw as a callous indifference to the slaughter he had just condemned.
I don’t know, was the president’s golfing really something that “many saw as a callous indifference?” Are these “many” people actually just political pundits and their audiences of news hobbyists and partisans? Are these pundits and enthusiasts concerned with the president’s responsibility to set an example with right and proper grieving? Are they protesting on behalf of a victim’s family? Or are they actually the craven ones, for turning a gruesome death into a question of political optics (for no practical cause! not even in the service of defeating or promoting a candidate or campaign! out of pure psychopathy or nihilism!) and changing the subject so quickly, from the matter at hand to the public relations value of the manner in which the matter at hand is being handled? “Should he really be playing golf right now?” is as stupid now as it was a decade or a century ago. It imagines an appropriate presidential schedule as follows: One hour of flesh mortification, one hour of reading history, one hour of negotiating with world leaders, one hour of begging for forgiveness from citizens, repeated five times daily, televised. Before work, kiss the family for the camera. After work, go to church in public. Sleep for four hours, if necessary. Sleep is not leadership! The optics of sleep are terrible: Why does the president sleep while others are tired?
“How it looks to Americans” is a fake political question asked on behalf of impossibly gullible people who do not actually exist. “Optics” is the second worst thing to ever happen to politics, after money.