Obama’s emotions — or lack thereof — become matter for public debate, overlaying oil spill and economy

Two wars. An environmental crisis. Global fiscal instability. Growing debt and deficits. Continued joblessness. And the nation’s talking class is fixated on presidential emoting.

Questions about whether President Obama is showing the appropriate level of anger over the oil spill in the Gulf kicked into a new gear this week, after his comments Monday morning on “The Today Show” introduced race into the debate.

Obama’s remark that he was looking for “ass to kick” over the spill provoked a headline on the Drudge Report that said the president was “going street.” That stirred two days of speculation – most of it on cable news – about whether a black president or a black man in general can show anger without provoking fear in white Americans.

Obama’s comment appeared to be, in part, an attempt to show that he was upset about the spill, in response to critics who have questioned whether he is showing the public that he cares enough about the ongoing disaster.

“The same people now criticizing him (e.g. Fox Morning team) criticized him for not showing anger a few days before. Go figure,” said Lanny Davis, a former White House special counsel to President Bill Clinton.

“It’s a completely bogus issue. Not 99 percent, 100 percent bogus,” Davis said in an interview.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs shrugged off questions about the president’s comment at the daily briefing Wednesday, which has been called unpresidential by senators and TV journalists.

“I’ve not heard any regrets about the language,” Gibbs said.

One prominent Democrat, however, said that the entire situation – the use of such strong language to compensate for Obama’s more cerebral and stoic personality — exposed a void in Obama’s leadership style.

“Politics is about something much deeper than problem-solving. The essence of morality is empathy. If you feel someone’s pain the chances are you’re a good person. The Golden Rule is basically: Feel someone else’s pain,” the veteran Democrat told The Daily Caller.

“And when you cast yourself as the problem-solver in chief — devoid of empathy, denigrating empathy — you had damn well better solve the problem. Anyone out there think we’ve solved the BP spill? Or unemployment? Or the deficit? No. Problem-solving takes time, and the only way voters will give you the time you need is by showing them you’re on their side,” said the Democrat consultant, who asked not to be identified in order to speak more frankly.

Public attitudes about Obama’s leadership have been slipping for some time. A little-noticed set of numbers in a Washington Post/ABC News poll released Tuesday showed that on two questions — whether Obama “understands the problems of people like you,” and whether he is “a strong leader” — the president lost ground in the last three months, which continues a downward trend since his election.


Watch Juan Williams explain President Obama’s “dilemma,” in an appearance Wednesday on Fox News.

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