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Mitch Perry Report for 3.25.16 – Obama in a time of terrorism

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

As you might have heard, President Barack Obama has been severely criticized in some quarters this week for his reaction to the latest terrorist attacks in Brussels.

Some objected to the president choosing to hang with Raul Castro while watching that historical baseball game in Havana between the Rays and the Cuban national team. They note that he devoted less than a minute to Brussels in his 34-minute speech on Tuesday morning. Some thought it in poor taste when he was dancing the tango in Argentina.

We’re talking optics here, folks. However, the president has a track record of not rising to the occasion from these terrorist events.

That’s not the case when it comes to the tragic gun shootings that have happened so many times during his presidency. Think about his speech in Tucson after the Gabby Giffords shooting, in Newtown in December 2014, and his unforgettable rendition of “Amazing Grace” in Charleston last summer. He was the leader of this country, articulating the pain and sadness that the country was feeling.

The president is aware of the criticism. Check out the (very,very lengthy) piece by Jeffrey Goldberg in the new Atlantic magazine.

Goldberg writes about Obama’s reaction – or lack of reaction – after the last major international terrorist event – the Paris attacks last November.

Later, the president would say that he had failed to fully appreciate the fear many Americans were experiencing about the possibility of a Paris-style attack in the U.S. Great distance, a frantic schedule, and the jet-lag haze that envelops a globe-spanning presidential trip were working against him. But he has never believed that terrorism poses a threat to America commensurate with the fear it generates. Even during the period in 2014 when ISIS was executing its American captives in Syria, his emotions were in check. Valerie Jarrett, Obama’s closest adviser, told him people were worried that the group would soon take its beheading campaign to the U.S. “They’re not coming here to chop our heads off,” he reassured her. Obama frequently reminds his staff that terrorism takes far fewer lives in America than handguns, car accidents, and falls in bathtubs do. Several years ago, he expressed to me his admiration for Israelis’ “resilience” in the face of constant terrorism, and it is clear that he would like to see resilience replace panic in American society. Nevertheless, his advisers are fighting a constant rearguard action to keep Obama from placing terrorism in what he considers its “proper” perspective, out of concern that he will seem insensitive to the fears of the American people.

It’s that perception of insensitivity that hurts the president at times like this, and allows his critics to maintain that he just doesn’t care that much about combating the Islamic State.

That’s hardly the case, even though people mock him when he (and others in the Pentagon) say the U.S. is degrading ISIS.

Obama is a very brainy guy. Sometimes in America people want more emotion, though. Sure, it may be just symbolism, but it’s also part of the job description.

In other news …

The DNC and FDP appeared to have a  bit of a headache on their hands, when Tim Canova, the Democrat challenging Debbie Wasserman Schultz in her bid for re-election later this summer, complained about being denied access to a crucial voter information list. He’s got it now, though other Democrats across the country have similarly been denied access when opposing incumbents.

• • •

Tampa House Democrat Ed Narain predicts that if a Democrat wins the White House this fall, the Florida Legislature will pass a form of Medicaid expansion in 2017.

• • •

St. Petersburg based House Democrat Dwight Dudley intends to participate in a solar fair Saturday on the USF campus in Tampa.

• • •

And WUSF’s voice on classical music, Bob Seymour, calls it a career this weekend.

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Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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