President Obama professes to be a great admirer of President Lincoln. He would do well, then, to listen to his astute political advice:
Public sentiment is everything. With public sentiment, nothing can fail. Without it, nothing can succeed.
For reasons known only to himself, President Obama seems to believe that results, in the end, will shift public sentiment. Why he believes that, and why he would risk allowing his agenda to be undermined when it would take so little to help shape public sentiment has allowed the right-wing to set the terms of public discourse is baffling.
It would be so simple, for example, for the president to get network time to deliver a national address to the American people, perhaps with a map in the background, to explain what his Administration is doing in fighting ISIS.
Having Defense Secretary Carter and Secretary of State Kerry hit the Sunday gab shows, and other administration officials filling the airwaves with interviews explaining the same facts, is not so difficult either.
Secretary of State John Kerry did just that, but it was seen by a limited number of people, never made a major network or cable station, never picked up by a major online publication such as this one, never discussed by the yaparazzi (a.k.a, the beltway the 'pundits').
Into this vacuum has rushed the same old dangerous nonsense, Senators McCain and Graham, Bill Kristol who never met a war he did not want to start (so long as he did not have to fight it), Republican presidential candidates and Mitt Romney (aka, "fightin' Mitt," who claimed he wished he could fight in Vietnam but somehow just never bothered to volunteer and whose five sons never volunteered for Afghanistan or Iraq either).
No one should take any of these people seriously--except that they yap in a vacuum of information that the Administration will not fill.
Does the Administration have a tactical approach to ISIS? According to the yaparazzi and Republicans, "no". But, if Secretary of State Kerry could speak to a larger audience, the American people would know the answer is "yes."
Are those tactics working? Well, if one listens to the same BS'ers who fill the airwaves, "no." Indeed, after Paris, the President's prior statement that ISIS was being squeezed was recalled with ridicule. But, if one bothered to look at facts (yikes!), it turns out that the so-called caliphate has lost about 25 percent of territory under its control.
How did that happen, Mr. President? Don't you think you owe it to the American people, and yourself, to let us know?
The majority of the American people think we are doing very little, have made no effort to engage others on the ground, are engaged in useless training exercises, and have accomplished nothing.
Ordinarily, my reaction would be that it serves the president right. If he will not follow his own role model's advice, if he cares so little about public sentiment, then why should I care?
Because the fools rushing in can take us into another disastrous war. That's why. Listen to former CIA Director, Defense Secretary, and right-wing Republican Robert Gates:
In my opinion, any future defense secretary who advises the president to again send a big American land army into Asia or into the Middle East or Africa should 'have his head examined'
Ditto, Mr. President, for refugees. No one understands, because you will not take the trouble to inform them, how stringent the screening and controls are before a refugee is granted status in the United States. You are losing that struggle for public sentiment too, because you leave the public bereft of information.
One small addendum: saying something once is not informing. Answering questions at a press conference often looks defensive. A little bit of proactive informing, and repetition could do a world of good.
Finally, not that people like me matter, but allowing this vacuum to occur, forcing us to hear all this unopposed garbage rushing in to fill it, is demoralizing.
Democrats may blame the press for missing the truth, or neocons for stoking fear as a way to power, but the fault is Obama's.
He creates the information vacuum, and, in that sense, he has still not embraced all the elements leadership requires.