Why Is Obama Still in Hawaii?

By Jo-Ann Armao, The Washington Post

President Obama wants us all to know he's taking seriously the attempted terrorist attack of Christmas Day and that his administration is doing all it can to ensure our safety. But his words would be a lot more convincing if not delivered during time snatched between rounds of golf, swimming and sunbathing.

The president of the United States is never really on vacation. The responsibilities of the nation's highest office can't be shed and, as the world's most powerful leader, Obama can surely summon whatever resources he needs no matter his location. Nonetheless, there's something unsettling about the president not wanting to interrupt his plans to deal with what appears to be the most serious threat to the nation's safety since 9/11.

Part of the issue is symbolic. Returning to Washington would have sent the world a powerful message of a president willing to drop everything and roll up his sleeves — someone who really means business. It also would have set an example for the federal officials and workers charged with carrying out our national security policy. I can't imagine Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano initially being so sanguine about the system working if her boss had hotfooted it back to the Oval Office to personally check up on things. Work situations vary, sure, but in my experience there's a lot less pressure when the boss is away.

By staying in Hawaii, the president has sent the message that the situation isn't all that serious, that things can proceed just fine until he's back. And isn't it that kind of reasoning that emboldens our never-vacationing enemies into thinking Christmas Day is the perfect time for them to strike?

The writer is a member of The Post editorial page staff.


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