Pick just about any issue these days — unemployment, federal debt, Israel, Iran, terrorism, illegal immigration, Gulf oil spill — and two words always describe President Barack Obama’s leadership style: "self" and "absorbed."
He tells us he saved the American economy as we know it, but my hometown of Las Vegas leads the league in unemployment at 14 percent — and it’s still climbing. If this is what Team Obama calls "saved," then please, let me give purgatory a shot.
Meanwhile, the federal debt skyrockets without a credible plan to repay it, other than to pass the buck to future generations.
The president won’t stand up for Israel as a friend.
And he won’t stand against Iran as a foe.
He treats Islamic terrorists like they were 1960s counterculture protesters with a righteous gripe against an imperialist America.
He gives China more respect than Arizona — one seeks to protect its border, the other seeks to erase Tibet from the map. In Obamaland, China gets royal treatment at the White House and Arizona gets investigated by the Justice Department. Go figure.
As illustrative as all that is, nothing highlights the president’s narcissistic leadership more than what’s going on with the Gulf oil spill. Faced with a dire environmental disaster, this pretentious president can’t rise above himself to effectively lead his people.
Just before Memorial Day weekend, for example, the president visited the Gulf shoreline with a couple of hundred environmental workers suited up in white garb. They combed the beach with the president as cameras filmed (or whirred, or whatever cameras do these days).
Local observers said they’d never seen that many workers in one place before, and that the British Petroleum workers in those special white spacesuits were rounded up just for this presidential photo-op.
But whether that’s true or not isn’t that important. All presidents by their very nature become a walking photo-op, and some administrations are better at staging it than others.
This president is mighty good at putting form over substance. Remember the white-coated "doctors" standing with him during the health care debate? Same schtick, different location. Heck, might have been the same guys for all we’ll ever know from the sleepy watchdogs that are the Washington press corps.
What’s far more bothersome about our president was on display during his news conference that day.
The president made a big deal (to paraphrase the vice president) about letting the nation know that he really, really — really — cares about this oil spill thing. We know this because he told us the odd story of how his young daughter surprised him in the bathroom as he shaved one morning and demanded to know: "Have you plugged the hole yet, Daddy?"
Isn’t that the cutest thing? Hope he didn’t nick his leg shaving as he no doubt barked in reply: "No! The oil is gushing out at umpteen gallons an hour and will soon kill an entire multi-state ecosystem. Now shut the door, honey. You’re letting all the steam out."
But I digress. The "a-ha" moment that gave America a glimpse as to why we might want to think twice before ever again electing a "community organizer" as leader of the free world came when Barack Obama said this (and I’m not kidding, he actually said it): "My job right now is just to make sure that everybody in the Gulf understands this is what I wake up to in the morning and this is what I go to bed at night thinking about: the spill."
As James Taranto pointed out in The Wall Street Journal the next day: "Obama’s job description is fascinating. … Now he tells us he thinks that if he somehow gets people to think about him and how much he’s thinking about what he thinks they think he should be thinking about, his job is done."
In other words, Obama’s leadership motto is: "It’s all about me."
As if to punctuate that motto, the president immediately jetted to Chicago for vacation, leaving the substance of an environmental disaster of biblical proportions in the wake of his mighty form.
Obama mission accomplished.
Favorite Barbara picture
The passing of Barbara Greenspun last week leaves a mark on the fabric of Las Vegas society.
As the owner of the Las Vegas Sun and wife of Hank Greenspun, she had a front-row seat to the making of Las Vegas. But she wasn’t a passive better half, which brings me to my all-time favorite picture of Barbara Greenspun.
It was October 1952, and the infamous Sen. Joseph McCarthy was in Las Vegas for a rally for Republican candidates. During the evening, Sen. McCarthy accused Hank of being a "voice of the Reds" (and he didn’t mean an announcer for the Cincinnati baseball team), prompting Barbara to jump out of her seat and yell at a man who at the time was one of the most feared politicians in America. We generally think of Hank as the fired-up half of that couple, but this photo, above, shows a young Barbara, provoked and animated. It’s one cool historical photo from the life and times of the best city in the world.
Many thanks to "Professor Joe," who digs up these moments for me from the files of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. One day, our extensive photo archive will be online, fully searchable and open for review. In the meanwhile, if you recognize anyone else in the audience, e-mail us so the professor can note it.
Sherman Frederick (sfrederick@ reviewjournal.com) is publisher of the Las Vegas Review-Journal and president of Stephens Media.