Slate's John Dickerson wonders aloud about the president's ability to manage his time, now that the presidency has become a constant exercise in crisis management:
The presidential inbox is overcrowded, misleading, and full of unwelcome surprises. In the last week alone, the president has faced three unexpected emergencies: The latest round of disclosures by WikiLeaks, a North Korean attack, and an outcry over TSA screening procedures.
How should a president respond to a job that is increasingly an endless series of emergencies? He has to decide what can benefit from his attention and what's a media creation or a trick of the opposition that will waste his time. On the other hand, too much restraint is a risk: A president—and this president, in particular—must quickly reflect and answer the public mood or else face the political charge that he doesn't "get it."
I'm not sure that I would call the outcry over TSA an "emergency," but I understand Dickerson's point. My only issue is that this isn't some new reality. In the first two years of his presidency, Ronald Reagan survived an assassination attempt, fought a major legislative battle over his tax package, dealt with a full-scale strike of air traffic controllers, filled a Supreme Court vacancy, committed troops to Lebanon, and struggled with a deep recession.
Similarly, Bill Clinton's first two years were committed to large fights over his budget, energy legislation, gun control, NAFTA, gays in the military, and health-care reform, as well as a host of foreign-policy challenges: the Battle of Mogadishu, the Bosnian Civil War, the Haitian refugee crisis (and subsequent American military intervention), the Rwandan genocide, the first World Trade Center bombing, a potential nuclear crisis in North Korea, and an Iraqi assassination attempt on George H.W. Bush while he was visiting Kuwait. And this is to say nothing of the political and media circus that consumed his presidency in its first two years and thereafter.
I'm sure I could go back further, to FDR as he faced the Great Depression and the Second World War, to Truman as he managed the beginnings of the Cold War and the rumblings of change in the South, and to Kennedy as he dealt with the real possibility of outright nuclear warfare. Simply put, constant crisis management isn't anything new, and indeed, the postwar presidency is virtually defined by crisis management. Yes, Obama has had a tough time (given the outrageous failures of his predecessor), but his challenges are more a difference of degree than they are of kind.
As for how a president manages this constant stream of issues and emergencies? There is a reason we call them presidential administrations.
-- Jamelle Bouie
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