While the Ukrainians continue the fight to hold their nation together against Russian aggression in the Crimean region, President Obama and Vice President Biden are on vacation.
No, I don’t mean that as metaphor attempting to illustrate their passive mismanagement of the situation from the outset.
I mean they’re both literally on vacation in the midst of a crisis with potentially enormous international consequences.
The White House says Obama squeezed in another round of golf Sunday on one of the courses at the exclusive Ocean Reef Club on Key Largo, where the family was staying.
The foursome included sportscaster and former NFL wide receiver Ahmad Rashad, former NBA player Alonzo Mourning and Cyrus Walker, a cousin of senior White House adviser Valerie Jarrett. Obama teed off with the same group on Saturday.
Meanwhile, Vice President Biden was enjoying his own southern sun, taking a weekend retreat with his wife to the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Perhaps the President sees this as an opportunity to show Putin that his acts of aggression aren’t going to make him sweat. Or perhaps, Obama really doesn’t see Putin’s moves as consequential in the grand scheme of things. Whatever his intentions, vacationing at this juncture can, at best, only convey utter apathy toward the increasingly volatile situation.
Of course, there are those who will ask, “what can the President really do at this point?”
Marc Thiessen at the Washington Post came up with a list, just for starters:
The president’s defenders say he has limited options to counter Russian aggression. Please. The United States is still a superpower — and there is plenty Obama can do to raise the pressure on Putin short of sending in the Marines. He can announce that he is directing the military to begin immediate humanitarian relief flights to Kiev, just as we did in Tbilisi in 2008. Putin is less likely to threaten Kiev if there are U.S. troops conducting humanitarian operations on the ground. He can add that he has approved Ukrainian requests for military aid and intelligence cooperation so that the government can defend itself against aggression.
He can declare that he is calling an emergency NATO meeting and that the alliance will conduct military exercises in Poland, the Baltic states and Romania to reassure our allies that NATO will stand by its commitment to protect them from Russian aggression. He can say that the United States will push for another round of NATO expansion, to bring Montenegro and Georgia — and eventually Ukraine — into the alliance. This would make clear that Putin’s actions in Ukraine have backfired and will accelerate, not slow, the integration of Central Europe into Western institutions. He can further announce that he is halting the planned drawdown of U.S. forces in Europe and restoring plans to build robust missile defenses in Eastern Europe. Those plans, he can say, were canceled in an effort to “reset” relations with Russia — a policy that Moscow has now rejected with its actions in Ukraine.
And the list goes on.
Regardless of whether you think Obama can do these things while vacationing with his family, he should have enough tact to understand the image of apathy these ill-timed vacations convey.
The President needs to do his job in a manner that demonstrates the esteem of the office to which he’s now twice been elected. If for nothing else, he ought to do it out of respect for the Ukrainian people.
Simply put, the President needs to show the American people — and the world — that he’s working.
As Thiessen notes in his column, however, “[h]e can’t do it from Key Largo.”
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