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The increasingly odd political optics of Barack Obama

Easter Egg Roll Obama shows off his Basketball talents 4-25-11In politics, what you're really doing is often much less important than what it looks like you're really doing.

And with only 560 days left until the voters' next verdict, President Obama is rapidly painting himself into a public-relations corner with an ongoing series of possibly accidental gaffes that are accumulating in the public mind.

And the biting humor repertoire of late-night comics: "Donald Trump says he's President Obama's worst nightmare," Jay Leno said last night. "No. Having to make a decision is President Obama's worst nightmare."

The former state senator may, in fact, be slaving away on 18-hour policy days. But much of that is closed out of sight. So the public is left to focus on Obama's frequent vacations, golf outings, celebrity gatherings and proclivity to give a speech at the first whiff of trouble.

With no real opposition, Chicago's Democrat pols care little about how insensitive things look.

Any one of these apparent missteps is inconsequential. However, accumulated over his 118 weeks in office, they create the impression of carelessness at best or, worse, arrogance.

What the White House issues are photos of a tieless, laughing Obama, feet up on the historic Oval Office desk, chatting on the phone system that he complains is so decrepit.

What the public sees, while it frets over stubborn unemployment and soaring gas prices, is a diffident Democrat who takes a 17-vehicle motorcade of SUVs and limos to be seen looking at clean-energy cars.

A pontificating president who suggests that one worried commuter buy a new car instead of complaining.

A guy who spent 745 million donated dollars to get into the White House complaining to visiting editors about losing his anonymity and being locked in the presidential bubble that provideEaster Egg Roll Obama and one youngster 4-25-11s service, luxury, power and security unimaginable to most.

To be sure, other presidents have played golf. Maybe not during three simultaneous wars with the awful accompanying human tolls.

Not likely working the putter the day after a colossal combined earthquake/tsunami natural disaster hit as close an ally as Japan. Or canceling a trip to the funeral of Poland's president and hitting the links.  

It's one thing to urge Americans to vacation on the troubled Gulf coast last summer, while your wife flies off to Spain with a planeload of pals.

It's another to spend much of Earth Day in a 747 jumbo jet flying 2,300 miles cross-country back from a slew of multimillion-dollar West Coast fundraisers, as Obama did last week.

It's one thing to launch a war against Libya while packing up your wife, daughters, mother-in-law and her friend to tour South America.

It's another to wait nine whole days to bother explaining the unexpected combat to a puzzled nation. Or nearly two months to arrange an Oval Office address on the country's worst environmental disaster ever.Obama relaxes in his Oval Office

It's one thing to laugh off the uninformed belief of millions of countrymen that Obama is a Muslim.

It's another to issue meticulous presidential messages and proclamations on what strike many Americans as the most obscure holidays of various religions around the world, then skip official notice of Easter in the predominantly Christian country they elected you to lead.

It's one thing to attend church with your family on that Easter holiday and nod in agreement during the sermon. It's another to leave that service a half-hour early, purportedly to avoid disrupting the service by waiting until the end.

Every president stages grand White House events like state dinners and the traditional Easter Egg Roll. Some 30,000 enjoyed themselves on the South Lawn Monday, even if few ever know precisely why they're rolling chicken eggs through the grass with spoons.

When George W. Bush staged his annual Tee-Ball tournament on that same grass, his staff ensured ample opportunity for the first father to be photographed, not demonstrating his own prowess at the plate, but teeing up the plastic ball for a little person to take a wild but earnest swing that drew applause all around.

On Monday President Obama held his monthly secret strategy meeting on the Afghanistan/Pakistan fighting. But what did we get about hObama awaits his entrance cue for a White House eventis day?

A photo of Obama appearing to laugh at one egg-rolling youngster. Photos of what could be a showoff Obama dribbling a basketball by himself while the crowd watches. And a shot of him shooting by himself.

Today, Obama will do four TV interviews on debt reduction to targeted markets in Ohio, Georgia, Virginia and Michigan. He'll then have meetings with Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan of the United Arab Emirates. All are closed.

But here's a selection of other Obama activities scheduled this week: Wednesday he and wife Michelle fly to Chicago on Air Force One. They will be there for three hours. The sole purpose: to tape an Oprah show. Obama will then fly to New York City. The sole purpose: a fundraiser, three, in fact.

Air Force One costs the government $181,000 an hour to operate.

Confident politicians enduring the ubiquitous criticism of American politics often remind themselves that much of what they do goes unseen and therefore unappreciated by the often inattentive people who employ them.

But in the end at the next election these elected officials assume that, even without deigning to carefully choreograph events, their work will speak for itself to voters passing judgment.

That may be true.

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Photos: Charles Dharapak / Associated Press; Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images;  Pete Souza / White House (Obama feet on Oval Office desk and awaiting his entrance cue at a White House event).

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The left stream media finally sees that not only does the Emporer not have clothes but that he can't tell you the frakkin time of day without at teleprompter! And that picture of our conceipted, arrogant President bears a striking resemblance to the pose frequently take by Benito Mussolini......

Wow! This was printed int he LA TImes?

Be careful not to get Juan Williams'ed there Malcom. Good piece!

"So the public is left to focus on Obama's frequent vacations, golf outings, celebrity gatherings and proclivity to give a speech at the first whiff of trouble."

If he gives a speech "at the first whiff of trouble" , then it takes much longer for the stink to reach him than it does everyone else.

Andrew - rock on. If the Times fires you, someone else will pick you up. The vileness of this man is matched only by his incompetence.

Does anyone really believe the President "feels our pain?" Or that he has great humility? Or has a servant heart? Or that he considers it a great privilige and honor to be our President? As for me, I get only the sense that he considers the Presidency to be a great burden.

I'm sick and tired of Obama speeches and optics - we are manipulated to death....

Obama does not care about me - and he does not care about the strength of the USA - His key backer, George Soros, has been trying to bring down the USA for decades....

The narcissist must be fired. Nobama 2012.

The only thing that is American about Obama is the story of his election. That's it! End of story. His entire life has been dedicated to class war. He is as anti-American as you can get.

We need to do is look at how an enemy became a leader of the free world and determine what needs to change to ensure that it NEVER happens again.

Here are my suggestions:

Almost half of the population pays no federal taxes. (Read that sentence again.) We foot the bill for these folks, but they have an equal say in how our money is spent. There is simply NO WAY to spin that into something that makes sense, or is fair, or is line with the principles this country was founded upon. Imagine someone living in your house rent-free. Would that person have the same say as you in what the rules are for your home? Would that person have equal say in what renovations to make or what furniture you should buy? Of course not! We must restrict voting rights to taxpayers, land owners, and those serving in the military (and of course the obvious exceptions such as retired and disabled folks).

We must also end all forms of lobbying, earmarks, and any other practices that result in purchased votes. We have to eliminate unelected positions of power (czars), executive orders, and any other methods of circumventing the will of the people.

We probably need to publicly fund campaigns too, since there seems to be no effective way to eliminate votes purchased through campaign donations.

I also think the voting age should be raised to 25, since it is intended for adults who are out in the world (and at least somewhat informed) and that no longer happens by the age of 18.

Notice how I just eliminated the majority of Obama's voter base? This is also the only road to returning the power to the people , as intended by our Constitution. It has to become a priority to all taxpayers to reclaim their power in this county. Otherwise, we are screwed.

The emperor has no clothes!

SHHHH! Let Obama keep doing what he is doing. We have to get rid of the guy in 2012 or we are doomed.

Obama is an old-fashioned marxist-leninist demagogue, fundamentally transforming America from a democratic free enterprise system to a centrally planned economy. A second Obama term will turn America into with a totalitarian state that will pick the winners and losers in society, organized around a personality cult. We are already halfway there.

Of all these photos, the one most puzzling is the one of his feet up on the Oval Office desk. One would think that with the current state of tensions in the greater Muslim world, the US President would know better than to have a publicity photo taken that features the soles of his shoes. That's about as offensive to people in the Arab world as would be a picture of him mooning the camera.

It's especially puzzling coming from a President who's taken every opportunity to voice empathy and friendship with Muslims domestically and internationally. For him to give a speech in Cairo and then undo that sentiment with this photograph seems pretty obtuse.

"...even without deigning to carefully choreograph events, their work will speak for itself to voters passing judgment."

$14.3 trillion debt. Double digit unemployment. Crony capitalism. Politicized DOJ. Stiffing American Allies. Appeasing dictators. Waffling, indecisive leadership.

I think we've already passed judgment, and are just waiting for November 2012 to get here already.

There is no transparency like that of President Obama. We see through him. Through him we see loss of jobs like under no other President, loss of national stature like under no other president, loss of dollar value like under no other president, loss of states confidence like under no other president, loss of White House integrity like under no other president (except maybe Nixon), loss of fiscal responsibility like under no other president, loss of national identity like under no other president...

The guy is liar, a thug, a sybarite, a narcissist, amorphous in his religion, and utterly dedicated to the destruction of the posterity of this nation and the future enslavement of our coming generations.

In his first year in office he has had more free ink and airtime than any other president in history. He racked up more debt in his first 90 days that GW Bush did in eight years. He has insulted the USA at every international venue he has graced with his presence. He unabashedly uses hundreds of millions of your tax dollars to campaign full time while ignoring the business of State.

Odd Political Optics? Lord have mercy, but that is complimentary in understated terms.

"miss me yet?" ah actually yes.

Hoo boy. The same or similar article could have been written about any recent President, going back at least to Nixon. I do take this article as a friendly warning to Obama about appearances, which is fair enough.

But some of the comments indicate that this article struck a darker chord among some. "Mussolini"; "the vileness of this man..." where does that come from? "Incompetence..." - he's helped lead the passage of an awful lot of important legislation for someone incompetent. You might not like the legislation, but the extent of it looks pretty competent to me.

Andrew, given the kinds of friends you've made with this one, you may need to reconsider the message you've sent.

Slowly, but surely the truth comes to light. This Presentdent of ours is a fake man. A whimpish poser to a great degree, he simply cannot make a decision that is in the best interest of this country if it conflicts with his personal agenda. An agenda which, now that the dust from the rampant ass-kissing by the media "intelligentsia" has started to settle, appears to be strikingly anti-American. Not just "get-the-rich" anti-American, but a straight up middle finger to ALL of us. Even to those suckers that actually believe he knows what he's doing when he changes his mind after every tee-off.

Every day it gets harder for the mainstream press to ignore that their self-annointed God-child is a manuipulator of hate and mistrust. He uses it to tear this country apart on racial, religious and economic lines. As the United States is slowly driven into Euro-style socialistic muck under his watch, we will all suffer. Including those forever-damned 52% who voted for this shadow of
a "leader."

Damn, couldn't you have just left him there eating his waffle? Life was easier then. We could afford to drive a real car, we weren't fighting three wars, nobody told us what we could eat. The EPA wasn't telling us not to breath because we exhale a natural and abundant component of our atmosphere.
Nobody was stealing our hard-earned money to make it easier for others to not have to work. We didn't have to watch while our elected leader played golf through every crisis at home and abroad. We didn't take crap from anyone, and most certainly didn't suck up to the very dictators who have vowed to never rest until they destroy us and our way of life.

It is almost funny to watch NBC (on rare occasions) just to see how hard they try to make silk out of the sow's ear we have in our White House. That fool couldn't say the right thing even if he was (tele) prompted - oh wait he is. You can sense the desperation in their voices. I love it. The smell of fear. Fear that deep-down they know they backed a sick horse and soon every person in this country will not it too.

So Goodbye Glowbama, don't let the door hit ya where the good Lord split ya. It's getting close to the time where you're forced to slink off into the stinkbin of history, forever known as the Worst. Presentdent. Ever.

b. hussein obama jr is of the extreme left wing, out of touch and elitist.

Really vivid and concise way of stating the true happenings in and of the Obama presidency thus far. Nicely done!

Excellent article! It is very reassuring to see important news personalities and publications give "equal time" in highlighting the foibles of our leaders in Washington and elsewhere. My grandmother told me decades ago that I should not pretend to be something I am not. I think we are discovering that Obama is a great pretender.

Great Article.. thank you. This "showboat" needs to go away.

You know if you really want to do your criticizing and comparing to G.W. Joke, I wouldn't use Airforce One. Bush made constant trips back and forth to Texas on the so expensive Air Force One, for no other reason than to sit on his porch and look like a worthless President (which he was). He was also a traitor and disgrace to this country. I like how the only negative reports you ever see about Obama or the Democrats. The Press is bought and paid for by the Republican Party. How come no one ever brings up all the scandals with Gingritch. Like his afair with his secretary while his Wife was in the hospital dealing with cancer, and he was leading the charge against Clinton getting oral sex. How about when he stated on TV that someone should assasinate Clinton, and nothing was done about that. How about when bush was Gov. and he executed 150 people, including a Woman, and Foreign Citizen, and a Mentally handicapped person, and then spent his presidency preaching how abortion is murder, and no one but God had the right to take a life. I guess that means he thinks he's God, although we all know he does. The Democrats are far from perfect, but so are the Republicans, and I really get tired of the hypocritical press leading the way for all of this garbage. If when bush was president the Democrats would have said we will not vote on anything you want no exceptions, they would have been torn apart, the Republicans do it and it's okay, because he put on his fake crying game to make everyone feel sorry for him.
I don't care if you want to contribute to the mud slinging, instead of consentrating on the more important things that could be in the new's, but why don't you make it a level playing field. I would like to know how many negative articles you wrote about bush's treason and war crimes, when he started a war with another country unprovoked, and with lies. Him and his whole administration should be brought up on charges and thrown in prison. It's just too bad that Polosi didn't have the gut's to do it. He commit's treason and nobody does anything, Clinton gets oral sex and they spend millions of dollars, and waste month's worth of time to impeach him. We live in a pretty backwords, lopsided world.

Ok, now I'm getting upset.

Anymore truthful, on point articles from the LA times on our president and I may have to start buying a subscription.And it's hard times but I'll spring for honest news such as this.

What else did we expect from the Narcissist-in-Chief?

Susie why hasn't Obama talked about the fact that annual inflation is up to 10% using 1980 gov metrics (including food and gas)? instead he just rambles on and on about the same old campaign talking points, and continues his globetrotting and parading around the U.S. for mere self-serving purposes.

With sure small font I cannot readit Could yu use larger Font ???

Mr. Malcolm could have recorded all of the president's policy accomplishments, if he could just find one.

The former press secretary for a Republican administration is "concerned" that Obama is going to lose the 2012 general election. OH NO!

Well DUH !!!!!!!

Are you people kidding? As irrational as American politics gets, never in my wildest nightmares did I ever think I'd hear anyone say a President could be "too methodical," "too careful," or "too rational." All the stupid comments about Bush not dropping what he was doing to attend to 9-11 or Katrina, when he had instantaneous communications at every moment, are now being applied to Obama.

OMG WE'RE ALL GONNA DIE!!! EVERYBODY PANIC!!! I'll set the tone by bouncing off the Oval Office walls and eating paste.

Now, everybody happy?

Andrew Malcolm should look up the term "concern troll."

"A person who posts on a blog thread, in the guise of "concern," to disrupt dialogue or undermine morale by pointing out that posters and/or the site may be getting themselves in trouble, usually with an authority or power. They point out problems that don't really exist. The intent is to derail, stifle, control, the dialogue. It is viewed as insincere and condescending. "

Your concerns are duly noted, Mr. Malcom. And duly ignored.

Okay, the fact that we have republicans in this thread complaining abut Obama driving around in multiple SUVs shows just how pathetic the right has become. Obama drives around in multiple SUVs so that none of the nuts can shoot at him. Just like every president since JFK. Remember JFK?

I'm sure Obama would love to drive a Prius. But he's the President. People want to kill him for no more reason than that. Try to keep a grip on reality when you whine about how awful he is.

if Obama can stop dribbling a basketball long enough to realize that inflation has now hit double digits per year, and the American people are just worried about filling their tank and getting food on the table (and finding or keeping their JOBS!!!), let me know.

It would be short sighted of him to not be campaigning. With the citizen's united ruling, whichever republican he ends up running against is going to have a financial lead on him in all likelihood. The candidates who are "considering" running aren't much competition, true but just because they don't seem that way doesn't mean he isn't going to take it seriously.

With constant attacks on his person just on whether or not he "deserves" to be president it does not surprise me that he doesn't pander like many other politicians by choreographing ideal situations for photo ops. He is a real person and that seems to upset people. He provided the legal documentation needed in 2008 and further release a original copy and yet still that isn't good enough? Now they have to question his grades and want a release of his school records? That's just silly, I don't see how what classes and grades and professors he took matter because it has no bearing on what is truly important in this country. All they want with the release of that is more fodder for them to use against him by skewing the facts and saying oh oh he took this class that makes him a communist or ooo oo he had two classes with that professor he is totally a socialist.

It is all just a bunch of bull so they can continue having these inane discussions about things that have no relevance on what is happening to America.

Yes, he may not make the best decisions, he may have differing ideas about policy, but that doesn't mean people should be striving to find irrelevant information so that they have makes blogs, articles, and news spots about how "Obama made this grade in college".

It is silly and while true reporting might not get people as many clicks or recognition, our press shouldn't pandering to ridiculous stuff like this. Fluff pieces are okay every now and then but when it gets to the point that covering a destructive issue like the birther movement, which has caused our elected officials to waste god knows how many hours discussing or creating bills like the one in Arizona. It wastes everyone's time--politicians, legislatures, and the American people's time. I thought that our nation was built on the concept of freedom of the press, not so people can just spew garbage for attention but so everyone would access to information and the truth. This is just another article that panders.

Holy crap.... am I really reading this article at the LA Times? What is this? Journalism .... actual, real Journalism?

I'm shocked....

and great article.


I am amazed to see this article because the media has largely given this president a free pass. In the run up to the election, it seemed as if Obama was largely a media creation. He still is largely getting that free pass. Maybe there is some hope for the media yet.... This article is entirely correct.

I was wondering why this article seemed so biased. No mention of the number of times Bush used AF One to travel to Texas on his 50 plus vacations while he was President. No mention of security requirements with Presidential travel, or the Democratic Party reimbursing the government when the President uses AF One for a fundraiser. Or the fact that SUV's are the Secret Service's choice and totally out of the decision making hands of the President. Then I looked up Mr Malcom, He was press secretary to Laura Bush in 1999-2000.

That explains the obvious and significant bias on his part! Shame on the LA Times for permitting this "writer" to sound more like a Fox News commentary than a legitimate newspaper reporter.

(AM responds: If you get a chance, look at the writer bio here. No need to go hunting. It says the same thing for the last 4 years. Then look atop this page. Oops. It says: "Political Commentary." Thanks for joining so many readers here. Great to have you.)

"On Monday President Obama held his monthly secret strategy meeting on the Afghanistan/Pakistan fighting. But what did we get about his day?"

Bin Laden DEAD. That's what!

Really? This article "commentary" is as petty as they come! Too much whining. Maybe if Obama could miss one golf game he could use that time to solve the problems of the entire world. Could it be that he really is as good as they fear he is?

As awful a president and human being as Obamao is, not all the blame should be laid at his door. After all, there were more than a few of us who knew all along that he was a charlatan, a montebanque, a nobody with no credentials for any elected office, much less the Big one. So, once again, the foolish, short-memory, unthinking American public got what it deserves...and it sure looks as if they're gonna get a second dose in '12. That's unfortunate, since I don't deserve to go down with their ship, and this great experiment in democracy ought, for the sake of the world and the human race, to be given a little more time to learn and grow. The real problem, the bottom line, is that our educational system is so poor, as morality precipitately declines, that citizens don't learn how to think critically, to read critically, or to realize that they need to be engaged in the decisions that mightily affect their lives. Only with people as stupid and vapid as apparently the vast majority of Dems, could you get Kool Aid-gulping on such a mass scale. How sad, how very sad, that the right-thinking, intelligent, temperate folks are gonna take it in the neck with the Stepford jerks that voted for that abomination of a politician.

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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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