Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Obama's Words: What He Doesn't Mention Is Just as Important

So, what did President Barack Obama fail to mention during his 55-minute press conference yesterday? Mike Allen of POLITICO has an interesting take this morning:

A couple of surprising words were missing from President Barack Obama’s 55-minute news conference on Wednesday: “Iraq” — and “Afghanistan.”

Also MIA: “Korea,” “Pakistan,” “soldiers,” “surge” and “war” — as well as the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines.

The omissions were partly a result of the short attention span of the press, which did not ask about those topics after the president did not mention them in his opening statement.

But the silence on those subjects also provides a striking illustration of one of the singular differences between Obama and his predecessor.

Whereas President George W. Bush invoked his status as wartime commander in chief so often that it seemed like a crutch, Obama has much more of a domestic focus, and resists rhetorical calls to arms like “war on terror.”

It’s the Mars and Venus of the 43rd and 44th presidencies.

David Axelrod, Obama’s senior adviser, said the president’s aides have never had a conversation about balancing the role of commander in chief with domestic-policy priorities.

“He feels equally comfortable on each role,” Axelrod said. “His focus isn’t just solving the problems as we find them, but hopefully forestalling some for the future.”

Obama aides say that the attack of 9/11 made war central to Bush’s presidency, whereas a twice-in-a-century recession has forced them to multitask — restoring the economy at the same time the president was engineering a surge of troops into Afghanistan.

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