Obama is Not Pundit-in-Chief

Robert Kagan, in an apparent effort to burn his reputation as the thinking man’s neocon, has a pretty silly column bashing Obama for not using his magical powers to cause the Iranian regime to topple. The Washington Post’s crack headline writing team decided to give the piece the absurd and offensive headline “Obama, Siding With the Regime.”

Meanwhile, my colleague Matt Duss was on MSNBC yesterday offering a much more reasonable take on Obama’s restrained response:

DUSS: I think the lesson to be learned is the United States’ ability to intervene and change these outcomes is rather limited. As Americans, we like to believe that our ability to move, to promote democracy and to move events in the world at our will is a lot bigger than it actually is. … Right now President Obama’s treatment of the demonstrations going on in Iran is pretty near perfect. He has taken the United States to the extent possible out of this equation, he, the United States, and our role in the Middle East is not — he’s not going to give that to the hard liners as an excuse for an even greater crackdown.

Something I think people don’t always get is that the President is not the columnist-in-chief or the National Blogger. One of the very nice things about being a professional political pundit, is that you can just sort of spout off what you think and use colorful language and strong, bold words. You need to be careful with what you say and do, paying scrupulous attention to consequences.

Max Bergmann did an excellent post on just this subject last summer, saying that John McCain had a tendency to act more like a pundit than a president. I think that’s exactly right. And today you’re seeing some rightwing pundits getting mad because Obama is acting like a president rather than like a pundit.