As a descriptive matter it is in fact the case that many people yearn for politicians to respond to national security threats in a manner that fills certain psychological needs rather than in a way that represents a reasonable policy response to a problem. But normally when you hear this explicitly stated, it’s by someone like me accusing other people of implicitly wanting this. It’s rare that you see something like Maureen Dowd’s column explicitly making the point:
He’s so sure of himself and his actions that he fails to see that he misses the moment to be president — to be the strong father who protects the home from invaders, who reassures and instructs the public at traumatic moments.
He’s more like the aloof father who’s turned the Situation Room into a Seminar Room.
Sorry, no. The Situation Room is not a Seminar Room, but it’s also not the Reassuring Dad room. It’s a place where the President meets with key officials to decide what to do in response to emergencies. The “moment to be president” starts when you swear the oath of the office and it ends when your successor takes office. And the job is to make decisions that reflect a realistic assessment of the risks, of the available policy options, and of the costs and benefits involved in the different options. Reassuring children is a job for parents. Treating adults like they’re little children is, perhaps, a job for newspaper columnists.
Personally, I’m not happy with some of the things Obama has done in response to the failed pantsbomber—the new “profiling lite” policy in particular—but this sort of complaint from Dowd makes me feel a lot more sympathetic to the guy.