"Like every Democratic president since John F. Kennedy," the New York Times declares, "President Obama is battling the perception that he’s a wimp on national security,"
That "perception" has haunted Democrats in the White House even before JFK, when Harry Truman ordered government employees to sign loathsome loyalty oaths in order to counter McCarthy era charges that he was being "soft on communism."
Even as the Times lists such Obama moves as sending 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan, ramping up air strikes in Pakistan and Yemen and holding out for tough verification before signing a new nuclear arms agreement with Russia, the GOP keeps accusing him of erectile dysfunction in the War on Terror.
In the lead is Dick Cheney's daughter Liz with her "Keep America Safe" organization's TV commercial, "100 Hours," citing the President for dangerous inaction after the attempted Christmas airliner bombing (what he might have done besides talking tougher is unclear).
Such accusations of avoiding confrontation come with particularly irony from the political heir of a warlike patriot who was "too busy" for eight years to serve in Vietnam, asking for and getting five draft deferments.
But Obama's failure to display testosterone is being questioned from the Left as well, with Maureen Dowd lecturing him that "it’s not O.K. to be cool about national security when Americans are scared...He’s so sure of himself and his actions that he fails to see that he misses the moment to be president--to be the strong father who protects the home from invaders, who reassures and instructs the public at traumatic moments."
The JFK analogy may reassure Dowd and other doubters if they look back at Kennedy's signing on for the Bay of Pigs disaster in deference to hardliners he inherited in 1960, then taking responsibility for the results and learning enough to resist their demand to bomb Cuba "back into the Stone Age" and avoid nuclear war during the Missile Crisis.
One encouraging sign that Barack Obama knows the difference between talking and being tough can be found in Gen. David Petraeus' CNN interview with Christine Amanpour yesterday in which he refused to discuss "the assistance that we have provided in Yemen" but made it clear that the US is stepping up military aid in attacks on al Qaeda there.
This might be a good time to go even further back in the history of Presidential wimps and recall Teddy Roosevelt's advice about speaking softly and carrying a big stick.