LOS ANGELES, August 8, 2013 — President Obama’s sixth appearance on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno could be dismissed as a typical case of a soft president choosing safe forums to get his message out. Obama does not like to be challenged. He prefers friendly and ideologically in-tune late night hosts to people like Chris Wallace or the late Tim Russert and their serious questions and persistent follow-ups.
Yet to just ignore this appearance would be a mistake. Even fluff appearances can unintentionally provide real news.
Leno is not to blame in this situation. He is a comedian, and is not expected to grill the Commander-in-Chief. While Leno is an equal opportunity targeter, he appeared very ill at ease in his opening monologue. He made two jokes about Senator John McCain being old and even reached back to 2007 for a totally unnecessary joke at the expense of retired Idaho Senator Larry Craig. Leno is not known for cheap shots, and he seemed visibly uncomfortable telling his own jokes. Even experienced professionals can be nervous auditioning in front of the leader of the free world.
The transition from monologue to dialogue was smooth enough, and the lighthearted beginning to the conversation showed Obama at his best. When asked if he teases Michelle about her weight and other issues the way she teases him, he replied, “No.” It was an honest moment that men everywhere could identify with. Do not offend the wife in public. Yet every moment after that remark showed Obama at his worst in various different ways.
Obama claimed that he was “putting al Qaeda between Afghanistan and Pakistan back on its heels.” This is false. We are shutting down embassies because of serious threats. Al Qaeda is growing, and the Obama Administration is on its heels.
He referred to “violent extremism,” stubbornly refusing to use the words “radical Islam.”
He said that “some countries” are less likely to experience a terrorist attack while in “some countries” there are “more dangers.”
He refused to name names, perhaps out of concern for offending radical Islamist terrorists. In the non-politically correct world, most of the dangerous countries are Arab Muslim nations. Scandinavia remains relatively safe.
When Leno briefly and tenderly mentioned Benghazi, Obama pivoted to the Boston Marathon bombing.
When Leno asked if the new round of threats were discovered through NSA surveillance, Obama fell back on his standard line about inheriting these programs from President George W. Bush and then making them better.
Obama insisted that “We don’t have a domestic spying program.” As of now this claim cannot be corroborated or disputed.
Obama made clear regarding Edward Snowden that “none of the revelations show the government has abused these powers.” The revelations so far have been fiercely debated as to whether actions taken were appropriate or excessive. The issue is not settled.
Obama was at his weakest when discussing Russian President Vladimir Putin. Russia’s granting Snowden asylum has Obama “disappointed.”
Even for a man not prone to emotional moments, this was him at his most cold, clinical and ineffectual.
He mentioned that Putin seems stuck in a Cold War mentality. “That’s the past. We’ve got to think about the future.”
No, Putin does not. Putin wants to return to the past and Obama refuses to accept this. He also seems powerless to stop Putin. The next day he canceled a meeting with Putin, which accomplishes absolutely nothing. Putin’s reaction should be to shrug his shoulders.
Obama lamented how Russia treats gay people, but that was him at his navel-gazing most useless. Putin can do whatever he wants whenever he wants because he has calculated that Obama is too weak to stop him. When Obama said, “I have no patience for that,” the logical question would be to ask what happens if and when Obama’s patience ever runs out. Putin seems unconcerned.
As cringe-inducing as the Russia discussion was, Obama looked downright insincere when discussing the economy. He called the economy “my number one priority at all times.” This is totally untrue. He has repeatedly claimed his top three priorities to be education, healthcare, and environmental issues.
He offered half-truths about how the economy is “growing” and that the deficit has been “cut in half.” Growth is anemic, barely above zero. The deficit briefly fell due to the sequester that Obama is trying to undo.
Obama blamed “globalization,” “technology,” and even “robots” for the tough economy, a reminder to people of his prior comments blaming ATM machines.
Leno gingerly mentioned Detroit, which Obama deflected without addressing.
Obama praised McCain for going against the grain of his own party, which Obama himself does not do. Obama praised Hillary Clinton and did not mention Vice President Joe Biden.
He defended Obamacare, again with false promises.
On October 1st, “you can join marketplaces,” “It will cost less.” “We will give subsidies.”
The marketplaces, known as exchanges, are not ready. Costs are rising. The subsidies are a desperate attempt to entice people to be part of a program that polls show they have repeatedly rejected.
Obama had the chance for a brutally honest moment when he was asked about Trayvon Martin. Obama said that we all know that young African-American men are disproportionately committing acts of violence. Yet then he backtracked and said we should “question whether laws in place” result in such violent encounters.
Obama still injects race and the Florida “Stand your ground” law into a case that had absolutely nothing to do with either of those items.
There was no mention of Benghazi, the trial of Fort Hood shooter Nidal Hasan, or IRS abuses.
The interview itself will be forgotten, but it should not be. The American people need to see that even in a friendly forum loaded with softballs, Obama could not overcome his worst inclinations.
His critics accuse him of being insincere with his domestic policy promises and ineffective with his foreign policy goals.
The criticisms remain valid.
Brooklyn born, Long Island raised, and now living in Los Angeles, Eric Golub is a politically conservative columnist, author, public speaker, satirist and comedian. Eric is the author of the book trilogy “Ideological Bigotry, “Ideological Violence,” and “Ideological Idiocy.” Follow us: @wtcommunities on Twitter
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