The president’s unwillingness to counter the baiting by American adversaries can feel emotionally unsatisfying, I said, and I told him that every so often, I’d like to see him give Vladimir Putin the finger. It’s atavistic, I said, understanding my audience.Obama's famous reluctance to engage emotionally with America's fears – over Ebola, terrorism, Chinese expansionism, etc. – may soothe diplomats and doctors, but it does not resonate with many Americans, and maybe they have turned to Trump as a man who feels what they feel and will respond and they might, with anger, insults and demands for satisfaction.
“It is,” the president responded coolly. “This is what they’re looking for.”
Wednesday, December 28, 2016
Obama and Trump
In explaining Trump's rise I have already referred to the advice Obama got from his political guru, David Axelrod, back in 2007: that Obama had a great chance to become president in 2008 because people are always looking for the opposite of what they have. I was reminded of that again today. I was re-reading David Goldberg's great Atlantic article on Obama's foreign policy, to which David Brooks just gave one of his Sidney Awards for the best long-form journalism of the year. Goldberg several times comments on Obama's “Spockian”, preternaturally calm response to foreign provocateurs like Hugo Chavez and Putin: