Back in 2006, I wrote about the artlessness of Hillary Clinton, who could have turned a story around to her advantage, and seemed masterful and above the fray at the same time. Hillary was artless.
Today we’re watching another display of political artlessness going down at the World War II Memorial, where 90-year old veterans of that war are being wheeled to that monument (and apparently the Lincoln memorial) by personal attendees — some of whom, no doubt, are trained in CPR — and the Obama government, who handled yesterday stupidly, is heading into a face off with them, by erecting spite fences around a completely open-air memorial*.
In denying the group of aged veterans permission to enter the memorial, Obama, like Hillary in 2006, missed an opportunity to turn the whole story around, and brilliantly: Instead of denying the veterans — who are very old, unlikely to be making a second trip and who have damn well earned the right to see their memorial — Obama should have personally greeted them there, respectfully toured the memorial with them, listened to a few stories and then made some remarks about how everything the veterans have fought for is now “under attack and being threatened” by politicking, and extremism and we must always fight for all Americans, rhetoric, rhetoric blah, blah”, and the president should have posed for pictures with the vets and promised that “any vet could always come to their memorials, whether the government is shut down or not, because we owe them that much.”
The press would have eaten it up, and Obama — particularly if he had been able to discipline himself (questionable) to speaking respectfully of the opposition, and not calling them his “enemies”, or “terrorists” — would have absolutely defused this story, and made himself look masterful in the process. Instead of creating a bad-optics story out of stubbornness and spite, he’d have completely owned the story, to his advantage.
Yes, I know, such a statement would properly have to go to congress, so “funding” for the parks could be re-instated, but Obama has no problem issuing Executive Fiats to laws outside of what is strictly required — he’s done it many times with the Affordable Care Act — so I am sure he would be given a pass for letting the veteran’s through.
So, yes, Obama is artless. I believe Bill Clinton, or Ronald Reagan, facing a similar situation, would have taken control of it in the most positive way possible, and they’ve have won the day.
But they were better at this presidenting thing, than Obama. If they hated the people who didn’t vote for them, they never let it show. It was never so obvious. But we’re in a different world, now.
*Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think the World War II memorial is privately funded and staffed by volunteers. I’ll confirm that and get back on it.