Posted by MataHarley on 7 March, 2009 at 12:26 pm. 18 comments already!

In a surprising Telegraph article today, a number of sources close to the WH are commenting on their worry the POTUS isn’t getting enough rest.

The piece, written by Tim Shipman in Washington, was meant to focus on the British puzzlement and perceived slight by the Obama WH during PM Gordon Brown’s visit last week. Forget the ballyhoo about gifts… there was also the customary full-blown press conference and a formal dinner that wasn’t offered up.

Instead Shipman offers a stunning view of a WH that alternates between excuses for Obama’s work load and lack of focus, it’s own admitted naivety on protocol, and in fact puzzlement as to why there is such emphasis on such “niceties”

i.e. Brown, that press conference and formal dinner?

British officials, meanwhile, admit that the White House and US State Department staff were utterly bemused by complaints that the Prime Minister should have been granted full-blown press conference and a formal dinner, as has been customary. They concede that Obama aides seemed unfamiliar with the expectations that surround a major visit by a British prime minister.

But Washington figures with access to Mr Obama’s inner circle explained the slight by saying that those high up in the administration have had little time to deal with international matters, let alone the diplomatic niceties of the special relationship.


Allies of Mr Obama say his weary appearance in the Oval Office with Mr Brown illustrates the strain he is now under, and the president’s surprise at the sheer volume of business that crosses his desk.

A well-connected Washington figure, who is close to members of Mr Obama’s inner circle, expressed concern that Mr Obama had failed so far to “even fake an interest in foreign policy”.

A British official conceded that the furore surrounding the apparent snub to Mr Brown had come as a shock to the White House. “I think it’s right to say that their focus is elsewhere, on domestic affairs. A number of our US interlocutors said they couldn’t quite understand the British concerns and didn’t get what that was all about.”

Instead we get a stunning assessment INRE the Obama admin’s ability to multitask.

The American source said: “Obama is overwhelmed. There is a zero sum tension between his ability to attend to the economic issues and his ability to be a proactive sculptor of the national security agenda.

“That was the gamble these guys made at the front end of this presidency and I think they’re finding it a hard thing to do everything.”

Naw, really? What about that “ready to lead” bit?

But wait… it gets worse as a State Department official gets testy about the cool reception…

The real views of many in Obama administration were laid bare by a State Department official involved in planning the Brown visit, who reacted with fury when questioned by The Sunday Telegraph about why the event was so low-key.

The official dismissed any notion of the special relationship, saying: “There’s nothing special about Britain. You’re just the same as the other 190 countries in the world. You shouldn’t expect special treatment.” The apparent lack of attention to detail by the Obama administration is indicative of what many believe to be Mr Obama’s determination to do too much too quickly.

OMG… is this to be our “reset” with international relationships? Reducing our closest and strongest allies to a homogenous position of obscurity with the rest of the world?


I feel ill… and worse yet, highly embarrassed.

In the meantime, most appear to be fretting about Obama’s schedule (which appears to consist of more campaigning than anything at the moment…) and his noticable fatigue.

A Democratic strategist, who is friends with several senior White House aides, revealed that the president has regularly appeared worn out and drawn during evening work sessions with senior staff in the West Wing and has been forced to make decisions more quickly than he is comfortable.

[Mata Musing: bet he’s missing that “present” vote option big time now…]

He said that on several occasions the president has had to hurry back from eating dinner with his family in the residence and then tucking his daughters in to bed, to conduct urgent government business. Matters are not helped by the pledge to give up smoking.

“People say he looks tired more often than they’re used to,” the strategist said. “He’s still calm, but there have been flashes of irritation when he thinks he’s being pushed to make a decision sooner than he wants to make it. He looks like he needs a cigarette.”

I can understand that the schedule of a POTUS can be frenetic. But I also think that Obama didn’t inherit problems that were also not on the mind of the previous WH occupant. So what’s the difference?

First of all, Obama is tackling a much larger bite of “remaking America” than he needs to at the moment. Instead of focusing on the housing/credit/banking crisis, he’s piling on with every other Democrat welfare social cause simultaneously. His ability to triage, and space out reforms is severely lacking. Instead of rowing across the pond, he wants to pole vault the dang thing.

Second of all, quit with the parties, Mr. Obama. You don’t need weekly cocktail soirees and music concerts. Substitute a cocktail meet and greet with those you work with all week for a nap, if need be.

Last of all, quit the campaign trail, fer heavens sake. There is no need for you to fly to Ohio for a PR speech against the backdrop of saving the jobs of 25 police recruits for one year. It’s not only an embarrassing argument in support of the stimulus, it’s a moot point. You got it passed. Damage done. What the hell do you want from us now?

Obama needs to understand that older men than himself have tackled the tasks of the Oval Office… and with similar negative conditions (i.e. Reagan and the Carter economy, and FDR’s genuine Depression, followed by WWII). Neither, however, attempted to spread themselves so thin… instead triaged the issues, and applied a concerted focus. They didn’t get sidetracked by extraneous goals that can be addressed in smaller increments down the road.

It may take some time for this ambitious novice to understand what he, along with his czars and minions, can and cannot accomplish in a period of time. He does so want to have it all right out of the gate. But I can only say if he’s so fatigued by his domestic over reach that he cannot pay attention to foreign affairs, we be in for a world of hurt.

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