Dana Milbank: Obama's Happy Talk Unnerving

Image: Dana Milbank: Obama's Happy Talk Unnerving (Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)

Wednesday, 03 Sep 2014 06:46 AM

By Elliot Jager

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President Barack Obama has been telling Americans to stay calm and not worry so much about the Middle East and Ukraine. He says that social media and the nightly news only make it seem as if the "world is falling apart."

Actually, the fact that the president is not worried is what's unnerving, writes Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank.

Obama says that systems put in place since 9/11 have made Americans "pretty safe" and that the Islamic State (ISIS) "doesn't immediately threaten the homeland."

Yet Attorney General Eric Holder has said that the threat of undetectable explosives emanating from Syria to the U.S. homeland is "more frightening than anything I think I've seen as attorney general." And Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein characterized Obama as "very cautious, maybe in this instance too cautious."

Contrast Obama's hopefulness with how British Prime Minister David Cameron sees the threat to Europe. "The creation of an Islamic caliphate in Iraq and Syria and the Islamist extremism and export of terrorism on which it is based is a direct threat to every European country."

Obama has been telling fundraising audiences, "Yes, the Middle East is challenging, but the truth is it's been challenging for quite a while."

He added, "I promise you things are much less dangerous now than they were 20 years ago, 25 years ago or 30 years ago. This is not something that is comparable to the challenges we faced during the Cold War."

Milbank writes: "I hope Obama's chillax message turns out to be correct, but the happy talk is not reassuring."

Obama argues that Facebook and Twitter have raised anxieties. "The world has always been messy," he told donors on Friday. "In part, we're just noticing now because of social media and our capacity to see in intimate detail the hardships that people are going through."

"This explanation," Milbank writes, "following Obama's indiscreet admission Thursday that 'we don't have a strategy yet' for military action against the Islamic State, adds to the impression that Obama is disengaged."

Polls show that the public thinks Obama is "not tough enough" in managing foreign policy. Essentially, though, people are craving foreign policy clarity, according to Milbank. "As National Journal's Ron Fournier put it: 'While people don't want their president to be hawkish, they hate to see him weakfish,'" Milbank writes.

The presidents says that America's leadership in world affairs "has never been more necessary" – which is why "Obama needs to show more of it," Milbank writes. People "would worry less if Obama worried more."

They would keep calm is they saw that he had a plan, Milbank concludes.


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