May 9th, 2007

Obama and the “tired” factor: making excuses

I have to admit I’ve got a ton of sympathy for Presidential candidates. The campaign seems at times to be a two-year marathon of travel, speeches, handshaking, exhaustion, and exposure to the howling wolves of the press who are always waiting for the first little slip to pounce and devour their prey, even one so favored as Obama.

Yes, you might say the candidates all asked for it; nobody is forced to run for President. And at this point, no one can plead ignorance of the process. But still, the actual experience—like having a baby and needing to get up five times a night to feed it—is probably far more grueling in the actual doing than it appears in the prospective contemplation thereof.

So when Obama made his slip-up and overstated by a factor of 1000X how many died in the Kansas tornado, I’m inclined to say it’s amazing such errors don’t happen more often to all the candidates, given the circumstances. But his excuse—that he was tired and weary—doesn’t sit all that well with me, although I have no doubt that it’s both true and understandable.

The problem is twofold. The first is that it may indicate not only a certain lack of toughness on Obama’s part, but a willingness to offer up excuses too easily. It’s okay for a Presidential candidate (or President) to be tired, but I’m not so sure he should be so eager to excuse himself on that score. I’ve often thought that, if the campaign is a grueling marathon, it’s probably a (pardon the phrase) cakewalk compared to the actual Presidency.

Just as the Presidency is not for the shy or those tortured by ambivalence, just as it requires a certain amount of narcissism (perhaps more than is healthy in ordinary life), it also requires true grit and enormous—almost superhuman—endurance. And if the President doesn’t feel up to it all the time, he/she is supposed to shut up about it and not let others see.

No excuses, although of course Presidents make mistakes. But, as Harry Truman said, “The buck stops here” for the President—and for the Presidential candidates.

In a larger sense—and perhaps I’m overdoing the analogy here, but what the hey—Obama’s willingness to admit to exhaustion mirrors the Democrats’ willingness to admit to being so weary of Iraq that they want it to be over, and immediately. Arguments about the pros and cons of the war aside, in strategic terms the clamor for the pullout signals a lack of stamina that can only be immensely heartening to our enemies.

37 Responses to “Obama and the “tired” factor: making excuses”

  1. Anon Y. Mous Says:

    Would it have been better if, like President Bush, Obama had simply given no excuse for his slip of the tongue? President Bush has demonstrated over the last six years that it’s almost impossible for him not to misspeak, but it seems like you’re ok with that if you’re mentioning a Democrat’s one slip and not Bush’s many.

  2. stumbley Says:

    One wonders if Obama is so drained this early in the campaign, what’s he going to be like down the stretch? And, G*d forbid, what if there’s an actual crisis if he’s elected? Anyone who’d admit to being “tired” by something as commonplace as a campaign can hardly be trusted to run the country.

    Geez, even Keith Richard can survive a rock tour, and he’s 63 and in such wonderful shape….

  3. stumbley Says:

    Anon, this is not Obama’s first “slip”. And Bush’s “mistakes” are of the “nookyoular” type…mispronunciations, as opposed to blowing facts.

    But of course, BDS ignores all that.

  4. The Unknown Blogger Says:

    What did Laura Bush say was wrong with her when she said “Hurricane Karina” twice?

  5. neo-neocon Says:

    washingtonpost.comAnon: I always find it interesting when I write a post in which I try to be extremely careful and clear about what I’m saying, and yet people misunderstand. I believe it is very clear from my post that I am not criticizing the slip of the tongue itself, either Obama’s or Bush’s.

    What I am criticizing is Obama’s eagerness to offer up excuses, and the particular form his excuse takes. And yes, I definitely think he would have been far better to have not made any excuse, or to have made a joke of it as Bush did when he slipped up about the date (“1776″) of the Queen’s visit. I’m sure Bush was tired, too, but I’m glad he didn’t say so.

  6. neo-neocon Says:

    I’m still working on fixing that glitch that’s responsible for part of the URL of a link showing up at the beginning of a comment, as happened above.

  7. mizpants Says:

    I read a fascinating of Obama’s two memoirs recently — I think in the Weekly Standard. The author’s theory is that Obama shows himself to be thoughtful and introspective, a real writer, in the first memoir, though the later one is a typical bloviating campaign memoir. That squares, somehow, with my impression of Obama, and supports my tentative sense that there really is something to him. But perhaps it also accounts for a certain self-cosseting fragility that is beginning to reveal itself under the pressure of campaigning.

  8. The Unknown Blogger Says:

    And yes, I definitely think he would have been far better to have not made any excuse, or to have made a joke of it as Bush did when he slipped up about the date (”1776″) of the Queen’s visit.

    “Obama refuses to comment on mis-stating Kansas death toll during speech.” or “Obama jokes about misrepresenting deaths in Kansas.” Something like that would have “sat better” with you?

  9. stumbley Says:

    UB:

    How about, “I made a mistake. Clearly I wasn’t thinking straight at the time.”

    Honest, straightforward, and not expecting people to forgive him because he was “tired.” (poor baby)

  10. Anon Y. Mous Says:

    “But of course, BDS ignores all that.”

    I think I’m going to be comfortable to anyone who takes the concept of “Bush Derangement Syndrome” seriously.

    “Anon, this is not Obama’s first “slip”. And Bush’s “mistakes” are of the “nookyoular” type…mispronunciations, as opposed to blowing facts.”

    Or, as Neoneocon was kind enough to point out, Bush just, the other day, stated that the Queen last visited the US for our bicentennial in 1776. But wait, am I deranged with hatred for Bush in pointing out something that Neoneocon just pointed out, and that the president himself actually said? Is it ever acceptable to point out something bad about the president without being deranged with hatred for him? Are any criticisms of him possible?

    What a pathetic cult of personality you have built if you honestly believe that the president is beyond any kind of criticism, and that criticism of him is evident of mental illness.

  11. Anon Y. Mous Says:

    “And yes, I definitely think he would have been far better to have not made any excuse, or to have made a joke of it as Bush did when he slipped up about the date (”1776″) of the Queen’s visit. I’m sure Bush was tired, too, but I’m glad he didn’t say so.”

    You think it would have been better for Obama to make a joke about senseless deaths in a natural disaster?

  12. The Unknown Blogger Says:

    Today’s headline: Obama says he was “not thinking straight,” comment goes unnoticed by political opponents and blogosphere.

    “I’m satisfied,” said one defense contractor. “At least he didn’t try to blame it on being tired. I mean, anyone who makes a mistake like that because they are tired is hardly fit to run the country. Not thinking straight, on the other hand, suits me just fine.”

  13. Anon Y. Mous Says:

    Good point, Unknown. One should generally be suspicious regarding political and electoral advice given by someone who wants your party to lose and believes your party hates freedom and wants terrorists to destroy your country.

  14. The Unknown Blogger Says:

    What I am criticizing is Obama’s eagerness to offer up excuses, and the particular form his excuse takes.

    Might this not also have been a good opportunity to criticize the evil MSM for even reporting such a trivial slip of the tongue (everyone knew what he meant, the facts were easily checkable, no reason for him to lie, etc.), thus effectively requiring some rationale from the Obama campaign?

    It’s hard to take seriously your statement that you believe no excuse, or a joke, would have been preferable.

    Seems like just a cheap shot to me.

    Meanwhile, discussion of the point he was trying to make, about National Guard readiness being affected by the war in Iraq, gets dropped entirely. Who’s side is the MSM on anyway?

  15. neo-neocon Says:

    Anon: Not a joke about the disaster, obviously. A joke about making an error. I think most people are able to tell the difference between the two.

    Or, as others have said, just a simple recognition of an understandable slipup, and move on.

  16. neo-neocon Says:

    UB: See above.

    Who’s side is the MSM on? Their own. Even those to whom they are generally sympathetic—liberal Dems such as Obama—are dead meat to the MSM if they think it will sell.

    As I wrote in the first paragraph of this post:

    the howling wolves of the press who are always waiting for the first little slip to pounce and devour their prey, even one so favored as Obama.

    Does this not count as a critique of the press? Gee, I thought it was.

  17. Anon Y. Mous Says:

    Hm…if Obama’s willingness to offer an excuse says something (negative) about his ability to lead the country, what does Bush’s refusal to ever offer any excuse, explanation, or apology for his myriad slips of the tonue say about his ability to lead the country?

  18. The Unknown Blogger Says:

    Does this not count as a critique of the press? Gee, I thought it was.

    Not really. Seems like in this case you actually enjoyed it.

    But ok, if you say so. Now that we have that out of the way, what’s your opinion on how the Iraq war is affecting National Guard readiness?

  19. stumbley Says:

    UB, it’s the excuse of “tiredness” that’s the problem, and it’s not the only time Obama’s used that excuse. If he’s so blinking tired, then take a few days off, get some rest, and then go back out on the stump. It makes one wonder, if it’s so flippin’ easy to get tired, and make mistakes—order of magnitude mistakes—then it troubles me that the guy’s hands may get on the football someday. I want clear judgement in my President, not a bleary hangover.

    But it’s really Obama’s policies that bother me. I suppose he can be as tired as he wants, it’s what he wants to do with the country that will prevent me from voting for him.

  20. stumbley Says:

    ngb.army.mil“what’s your opinion on how the Iraq war is affecting National Guard readiness?”

    I don’t know, you tell me….

    “Army Guard reaches 350,000-member goal ahead of schedule”:

    http://www.ngb.army.mil/news/archives/2007/04/042307-Recruiting.aspx

  21. The Unknown Blogger Says:

    defenselink.mil***

    Nice. But the question is not about member levels, it’s about “readiness,” correct?

    I notice it says:

    “As long as someone doesn’t turn off the machine, as long as we have the resources available to recruit like we do now, I fully expect us to be around 356,000 at the end of this year,” Lt. Gen. Clyde Vaughn, director of the Army Guard, said in Congressional testimony on April 11.”

    So let’s take a closer look at that Congressional testimony:

    Guard Leaders Urge Solid Funding to Close Equipment, Training Gaps

    Guard forces deployed overseas are “superbly equipped and superbly trained, … and we want for nothing,” [Army Lt. Gen. H Steven] Blum told the subcommittee.

    But he said the situation at home isn’t nearly as rosy. “It’s a much different story, and it’s not a good story,” he said.

    “The National Guard today, I am sad to say, is not a fully ready force,” the general said. “Unresourced shortfalls still exist that approach $40 billion to provide the equipment and the training that I personally feel your Army and Air National Guard are expected to have to be able to respond to the citizens of the United States.”

    A Kansas Army Guardsman who accompanied Blum to the hearing faces an even more serious issue, he said. Returned from Iraq in November, the soldier “doesn’t have a problem of old equipment,” the general said. “He has a problem of no equipment.”

    His unit, after leaving its own equipment in Iraq for the unit that replaced them, returned home to just two Humvees, both deemed “not good enough to go to war,” Blum said. “And that’s the equipment he has in his unit today.”

    Should a tornado or other stateside disaster require a Guard mobilization, the unit’s ability to respond would be minimized, “… because of the lack of equipment that is in that unit right now,” he said.

    Blum said the problem has reached epidemic levels, particularly in the Army. Most of the units in the Army and Air National Guard are underequipped for the jobs and the missions they have to perform with no notice here at home,” he said.

    “Can we do the job? Yes, we can. But the lack of equipment makes it take longer to do that job, and lost time translates into lost lives, and those lost lives are American lives.”

  22. The Unknown Blogger Says:

    You know, I was thinking, surely Bush has taken it upon himself to make an excuse or clarification for some of the literally hundreds of verbal errors he has made in his public life. But so I Googled the following:

    “bush says he misspoke” = 0 results.
    “bush said he meant to say” = 0 results
    “bush said that what he meant was” = 0 results
    “bush said he was mistaken” = 0 results

    The man is either perfect or pathologically averse to admitting errors.

  23. Lee Says:

    UB, as opposed to Democrats like Kerry who must constantly tell us what they “meant” by what they “said”, such as “winding up in Iraq”, etc.?

  24. DBrooks Says:

    As I was reading through these comments, I was thinking that the persistence and obstinance that people like The Unknown Blogger, Anon Y. Mous, and others like them display by their compulsion to respond and deride every single reference and post that challenges or disagrees(or even hints at such affronts) with their adopted views borders on the pathological. But then, I thought the word pathological might be inaccurate, so I looked it up. No. 3–any deviation from a healthy, normal, or efficient condition. Their compulsion certainly isn’t healthy, it’s definitely abnormal, and I would argue it isn’t an efficient use of their time and effort, so pathological it is. The more I see of this kind of behavior, the less I understand it. The best explanation I can come up with is that they must be young, and filled with the wisdomless passion of youth–a passion that induces a kind of tunnel vision. That, and they need the company of the opposite sex–the interested company, that is. I imagine they will think I am attacking them, or reacting because I disagree with so much of what they say, but it is more than that. I don’t understand what they think they are accomplishing by behavior that borders on harassment, and irritates much more than it enlightens. They can’t really believe they are converting people to their way of thinking. If anything, they are more likely cementing the perspectives of those with whom they disagree.

  25. Logan Says:

    “I don’t understand what they think they are accomplishing by behavior that borders on harassment”

    Huh? In what sense can UB’s or Anon’s posts “bother on harrassment”? Their posts have been quite polite.

    If anyone here “derides” others, it is usually the more right-wing types here — Sally for example. Notice the condescending, impolite way in which she responds to those whose world-view she doesn’t agree with.

  26. Anon Y. Mous Says:

    No, no – this is perfect – the idea that disagreement over politics is a symptom of mental illness. What a fascinating world DBrooks lives in…

  27. DBrooks Says:

    You are missing the point. There is nothing wrong with disagreement. Most of my best friends strongly disagree with my politics, and we occasionally have interesting discussions with a lot of give and take. The key word there is “occasionally.” What I find strange is the compulsion to comment at length every single day on any post here that hints at any perspective different from your own. For example, I have been involved in politics for more than 25 years, and I feel NO need to seek out people on the net who disagree with me and bludgeon them into submission with my self-absorbed arguments. As I said above, such behavior seems abnormal to me, and more than a little obsessed. I don’t think you are mentally ill. You are obviously a bright person, yet you expend a lot of energy and effort that a well-adjusted human would probably put to better purposes. OTOH, I am wasting time posting this crap, and I don’t even know you. I don’t really mean to single you out. This is a bizarre phenomenon I see repeated at many sites. It seems particularly vigorous at sites run by people like neoneocon or Ann Althouse–individuals who the Left think should be “one of theirs.” It’s as if they can’t stand it that such people have thoughts that don’t fit in the “Progressive” box. Again, disagreement is perfectly normal. There are many legitimate perspectives and views about government, politics, leadership, etc. Only you know why you are driven to come here regularly and rail against such a reality.

  28. Anon Y. Mous Says:

    “What I find strange is the compulsion to comment at length every single day on any post here that hints at any perspective different from your own.”

    Try boredom?

    “I feel NO need to seek out people on the net who disagree with me and bludgeon them into submission with my self-absorbed arguments.”

    So you’re saying that it’s terrible for people on a blog with a comments section open to anyone to hear from people who disagree with them? Would it be better if everyone here always agreed and reinforced everything everyone already believed?

    Also, you just can’t help “psychologizing” this – in what way is disagreement self-absorbed?

    “It seems particularly vigorous at sites run by people like neoneocon or Ann Althouse–individuals who the Left think should be “one of theirs.””

    Same deal; more pseudo-analysis.

    “Only you know why you are driven to come here regularly and rail against such a reality.”

    Rail against reality?

    I love theater of the absurd!

  29. Glen Says:

    as opposed to Democrats like Kerry who must constantly tell us what they “meant” by what they “said”, such as “winding up in Iraq”, etc.?

    Lee, I remember it being more egregious. Kerry’s first response was general indignance: he wasn’t going apologize but Bush should, Republicans knew exactly what he meant to say, and he was sick of attacks from stuffed suits…etc.

    I thought his “joke” came out the way he intended, but it was minor compared to his ridiculous defense.

  30. Fraggle Rock Says:

    I Googled the following:

    “clinton says he misspoke” = 0 results.
    “clinton said he meant to say” = 0 results
    “clinton said that what he meant was” = 0 results
    “clinton said he was mistaken” = 0 results

    The man is either perfect or pathologically averse to admitting errors.

  31. The Unknown Blogger Says:

    Touché! :)

  32. Lee Says:

    Anon, you DO realize you’ve been making DBrooks’ point by responding specifically to each and every one of his recent postings in the very snide and condescending manner he’s describing? In fact, the essence of all your “wordiness” is: “I’m not the crazy one, YOU are!”.

  33. Bravo Romeo Delta Says:

    With regards to the assertion of BDS, I guess how the responses echo that to me is the apparent inability to comment on something unfortunate or less flattering to one’s own viewpoint without immediately, invariably, and repeatedly drawing in Bush for comparison. I mean if someone else makes a comment about Hillary and pant suits, if the first gut reaction is to start with “Well, you should see how Bush dresses!” then that strikes me as a bit off.

    But this is all small potatoes. I think that, by far, the most interesting thing in the post is the analogy drawn at end:

    In a larger sense—and perhaps I’m overdoing the analogy here, but what the hey—Obama’s willingness to admit to exhaustion mirrors the Democrats’ willingness to admit to being so weary of Iraq that they want it to be over, and immediately. Arguments about the pros and cons of the war aside, in strategic terms the clamor for the pullout signals a lack of stamina that can only be immensely heartening to our enemies.

    As much as anything else, that the particular objections to the post were about 1) comparison to Bush, or 2) being ignored by the media, rather than the broader questions of endurance in decision makers and the body politic as a whole would seem to me to signal a strong tendency to get hung up on the non-essential.

    But, then again, I could be wrong. :)

    BRD

  34. The Unknown Blogger Says:

    Hi BRD,

    You wrote that you were perplexed by the:

    “apparent inability to comment on something unfortunate or less flattering to one’s own viewpoint without immediately, invariably, and repeatedly drawing in Bush for comparison. I mean if someone else makes a comment about Hillary and pant suits, if the first gut reaction is to start with “Well, you should see how Bush dresses!” then that strikes me as a bit off.”

    The thing about this is that Neo and others frequently make arguments of this sort.

    “The Left is disgraceful because it always does X” or “Democrats in Congress are slimy because they are always doing Y.”

    Is it not legitimate to counter these types of arguments by showing that behaviors X and Y are not exclusive to Democrats or the Left?

    I mean, the behaviors may indeed be slimy, the pantsuit may indeed be ugly, but why should the assertion that these things are exclusive to one side of the political spectrum, or its members, be allowed to stand?

    Neo took an off-the-cuff remark by a political candidate that he misspoke because he was tired, and extrapolated from that fact that he is “too quick to make excuses” and he and his entire party are suffering from a “lack of stamina” and are thus unfit to run the country.

    Given the amount of slack that Bush gets for all his verbal mis-steps, that seems a bit much.

    All the while she was completely (and conveniently) ignoring the larger question of whether or not the Iraq War has affected the readiness of the National Guard to do its duty at home.

    Talk about getting hung up on the “non-essential.” :)

  35. Bravo Romeo Delta Says:

    TUB,

    Thanks for the reply! I hadn’t realized that the thread was essentially dormant when I commented, so I’m glad that someone read it. I also imagine that it’s fair to point out that getting excited when someone reads a comment on a blog is validating, but hey, I’m a dork.

    In any case, I may have been reading into Neo’s remarks, but at least for myself, often I end up noticing an off-hand comment and it forms a seed for a thought experiment and those experiments are what contain the interesting information. I hadn’t read into her post a condemnation of Obama, per se, but rather a ‘vivid particular’ from which one can make observations about the Presidency in general.

    But then again, I could be wrong. :)

    BRD

  36. The Unknown Blogger Says:

    Well she’s on to something else now – Vietnam. This should be good…

    UB (It really needs to get busier here at the office!)

  37. House of Eratosthenes Says:

    [...] is patting herself on the back for her prescience, and I think she deserves it. This is her from over a year ago: …when Obama made his slip-up and overstated by a factor of 1000X [...]

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