That’s what this exchange in today’s WaPo chat sounds like:
Kensington, Md.: Am I the only one who finds it irritating and childish when the media (and the public) assigns credit or blame to a president for the outcome of a small-scale touch-and-go military operation on the other side of the world? I’m a huge Obama supporter, but he is no more a hero because the waves held steady as our Navy sharpshooter took his aim than Jimmy Carter was a goat because an unexpected sandstorm jammed the helicopter engines during the 1980 hostage rescue mission. Does the media truly have no idea how irrational (and unrealistic) this hero/goat assignment practice is?
Michael A. Fletcher: No comment there. But it is our common practice. Think of the instant analysis after political debates about who “won.” Remember Al Gore’s eye roll? What did that have to with the substance of his answers? But did it say somehting about his personality? Rightly or wrongly, these incidents often come to define presidents, and I don’t think it is just because of the media coverage. It probably speaks to the few windows we get into their decision making. In this case, Obama could have said we’re not going to do something that risky. Or he could have done what he did–I think that says something, even if it doesn’t say as much as we often make it out to.
Until this begins to change, our political system is largely screwed. Leaders are now judged, at best, by random events over which they have little control, and, at worst, by Villagers’ sad attempts at psychoanalysis. Bush managed to transcend that through the magnitude of his incompetence, but, even then, it took the Village until 2005 to realize it, so wowed were they by the straight talk and the flight suit and what not.
Maybe some day that will change. But I’m not optimistic.