In his first session with the White House press corps this year, President Obama was clearly in campaign form. And whether the topic was Rush Limbaugh’s apology for controversial on-air language or the situation in Syria or his commitment to Israel, Mr. Obama looked and sounded very much like the Democratic candidate for re-election that he is.
He gently batted down CBS-TV’s Norah O’Donnell’s request for a response to recent criticism of him by Mitt Romney, saying only “good luck tonight.” But Mr. Obama did ratchet up the response to potential Republican opponents’ criticism of his handling of the savage assaults by Syrian President Assad on his foes. In Obama’s words, “those folks don’t have a lot of responsibility — they’re not commander-in-chief.” He dismissed their comments on him with the Syrian situation as “more about politics” than anything.
“If they want war, they should say that,” said the President, invoking the loss of life of Americans in the armed forces during recent conflicts overseas, “Everything else is talk.”
What is most likely to make the evening news reports and the blogosphere was Obama’s response to a question about the controversy surrounding Rush Limbaugh’s use of the terms “slut” and “prostitute” in responding to the pro-contraception position of Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke. He declined comment on the “economics” of the controversy — that is, sponsors dropping Limbaugh’s radio program over use of the terms — and related his recent call to Fluke to his own desire to have his two daughters voice their views without being called names.
As for Limbaugh’s twice-stated apology to Fluke, the president threw some red meat to the haters of the radio star within his own party by saying “I don’t know what’s in Rush Limbaugh’s heart or the sincerity of his apology.” This was a bit different from the White House’s response when Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) called then-Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel to apologize for shouting “You lie!” during an address to Congress by Obama. As Wilson later recalled to HUMAN EVENTS, Emmanuel “accepted by apology immediately and the president and the first lady have always been gracious to me and to my family when we have been to the White House.”
The president took pains to burnish his credentials as a friend of Israel and of visiting Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu, with whom he has had frosty relations in the past. Although he acknowledged not visiting Israel since becoming President because of his schedule, Mr. Obama restated his commitment to the “security of Israel” and said it was “something I care about deeply.” He added that what he told Netanyahu “publicly doesn’t differ much from what I said privately” regarding Israel’s response to Iran developing a nuclear weapon and said “Israel can make its own decisions” — which sounded as a not-so-veiled green light to an attack on any nuclear facilities in Tehran.
Whether the topic was housing relief for Americans in the armed forces or whether Republicans are waging a “war on women” regarding the contraceptives issue (“women will make up their own minds on what they think is important”), Obama at the podium in the Briefing Room looked very much like Obama on the campaign trail. It is likely that Americans will see and hear a lot more of the president in campaign mode in the coming weeks and months.