Iran Heats Up, Obama Goes for Ice Cream

On his own blog and at Hot Air, Patrick “Patterico” Frey has the surreal juxtaposition of purported Iranians Twittering the horrors of protesting an evil regime intermixed with CBS White House correspondent Mark Knoller‘s account of President Obama taking his girls out for ice cream.

As Josh Trevino tweets, “Obama going for ice cream has all the symbolism of [Cowboys quarterback Tony] Romo going to Mexicoduring the 2007 playoffs.

He’s right, of course.  But Laura Methvin (via Terasa Kopec) gets it right: “I’m not bothered that POTUS went for ice cream while Iran’s in turmoil; I’m bothered that everyone at MSNBC did.”

It’s Fathers’ Day weekend and Obama is urging men to be better fathers.  Making time to be with your kids is the essence of fatherhood.  As he puts it:

As fathers, we need to be involved in our children’s lives not just when it’s convenient or easy, and not just when they’re doing well—but when it’s difficult and thankless, and they’re struggling. That is when they need us most.

And it’s not enough to just be physically present. Too often, especially during tough economic times like these, we are emotionally absent: distracted, consumed by what’s happening in our own lives, worried about keeping our jobs and paying our bills, unsure if we’ll be able to give our kids the same opportunities we had.

Our children can tell. They know when we’re not fully there. And that disengagement sends a clear message—whether we mean it or not—about where among our priorities they fall.

So we need to step out of our own heads and tune in. We need to turn off the television and start talking with our kids, and listening to them, and understanding what’s going on in their lives.

The challenge for presidents’ time isn’t the TV and paying of bills but the sense that they’re indispensable. It’s not as if there’s not going to be something going on next weekend that doesn’t merit his attention more than vanilla custard in a waffle cone.

Obama issued a statement yesterday on Iran that was more direct than any he’s issued so far but still more tepid than many would like:

The Iranian government must understand that the world is watching. We mourn each and every innocent life that is lost. We call on the Iranian government to stop all violent and unjust actions against its own people. The universal rights to assembly and free speech must be respected, and the United States stands with all who seek to exercise those rights.

Beyond that, I’m not sure what it is Obama should have been doing.  He’s got a team of thousands to “monitor the situation.”

He could, I suppose, reiterate that Iran’s regime is part of an “Axis of Evil.”  Or, borrowing from Ronald Reagan, he could say Iran has replaced the defunct Soviet Union as the new “Evil Empire.”  That might make us feel better but the benefit to the demonstrators risking their lives in the streets is unclear; it could even be harmful to their cause.

Meanwhile, the TV networks could certainly show better news judgment than giddy celebrity coverage of the president’s trip to the ice cream parlor when there’s real news to report.

Photo: Reuters Pictures. It should be noted this is from an August 2008 campaign stop, not yesterday’s visit to Dairy Godmother in Alexandria.

Update: The sentence on Romo’s trip to Mexico has been rewritten and hyperlinked for context and clarity.

FILED UNDER: Media, Middle East, US Politics, , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. gawaine says:

    If there’s a story here, it seems like the same tired story about the media. In other words…

    Contrast the tone of this coverage with the equivalent during other crises over the last eight years. For example, the scandal of Rice shopping for shoes while the Gulf Coast was being hit, for example.

  2. John Cole says:

    You’ve lost your mind.

    Yeah, it is “surreal” he went and had ice cream. I guess he was supposed to paint his face green and sit at a candle-light vigil. This is actually dumber than the unspecified demands that he “do something” about Iran, without ever claiming just what exactly he do.

    Remember in 2003 when you and I would both agree the Democrats had lost their collective minds? Look in the mirror.

  3. Matthew Stinson says:

    John, since you started pulling the lever for the Dems it seems like you’ve stopped noticing any nuance on the right. Most of this post is devoted to criticizing the media not Obama for giving so much coverage to the ice cream cone trip. The surrealism is not Obama’s doing such much as it is the media’s profound lack of priorities. It’s the media who’ve lost their frakking minds here.

  4. John Cole says:

    Matthew, that is nonsense. Read the post again:

    On his own blog and at Hot Air, Patrick “Patterico” Frey has the surreal juxtaposition of purported Iranians Twittering the horrors of protesting an evil regime intermixed with CBS White House correspondent Mark Knoller’s account of President Obama taking his girls out for ice cream.

    As Josh Trevino tweets, “Obama going for ice cream has all the symbolism of Romo going to Mexico.”

    He’s right, of course.

    Not only is he agreeing with Patterico and Josh, but he uses it as the frame for the later media criticism.

    This whole thing is nonsense. Obama is not President of Iran, he is President of the United States. Who cares if he had ice cream while events he has no control over unfolded elsewhere. That is “surreal?” I had a steak last night while people in Africa starved. Is that “surreal?”

    This is little more than the same sort of partisan nonsense that some would have called “BDS” just a few months ago.

    And finally, the Trevino comment is nonsensical on several levels, and shows how crazy the hive mind has become. When I first read it, I said to myself “Who the hell is Romo? What country does he lead?”

    Then I googled “Romo + Mexico” and discovered that Trevino is comparing Obama getting ice cream not to another world leader, but to Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys Quarterback, going on vacation. And these are the “serious” thinkers on the right.

    I can’t stop laughing.

  5. John Cole says:

    And that isn’t Patterico’s point, either. Go check Malking juxtaposing pictures of Obama eating ice cream and the pictures of the dead Iranian woman. You are fooling yourself if you think that was media criticism. It was cynical point scoring (more accurately, it was a lame attempt at cynical point scoring that will be laughed at by everyone).

    Additionally, CBS’s Knoller’s beat is covering the President. Not Iran.

  6. James Joyner says:

    This whole thing is nonsense. Obama is not President of Iran, he is President of the United States. Who cares if he had ice cream while events he has no control over unfolded elsewhere.

    Which is essentially my point. Frey and Trevino are right that the juxtaposition is surreal. But, as I spend 3/4 of the post arguing, Obama’s doing all he can and one could always argue that time he spends doing things that are frivolous should have been devoted to something more substantive.

    (We saw the same thing, BTW, with the various nonsense about Bush going golfing during various crises.)

  7. John Cole says:

    I take it back then and apologize. I just woke up this morning and saw that nonsense at memeorandum, and thought “Has everyone lost their mind?”

    Then I was shocked because I interpreted you as thinking the same thing, and I respect your opinion. We always hurt the ones we love :P.

  8. CH says:

    John Cole = dumdum. The fact that you had to google the Romo story to figure out what the controversy is explains why you still don’t grasp the point being made (and your bombastic mockery of the author comparing the two situations shows that you have a VERY limited grasp of the concept of analogy, btw). Romo going on vacation was harmless and likely didn’t affect his performance at all. It was seized upon by many pundits who had nothing better to report and Redskins/Giants/Eagles fans, who hate Dallas, as something indicative of Romo’s lack of devotion. Most people didn’t truly think that it impacted the playoffs in any way, but it looked bad and Romo was criticized for giving them any ammo to use against him at such a critical time. That’s point one that the author is making.

    Point two is proved by YOU– when Bush finishes the book reading on September 11th or goes golfing one day during the Iraq war, it’s a big gigantic thing. When Obama goes for ice cream, we get the Officer Barbrady routine from the left: “move along people, nothing to see here”. The double standard is what’s being criticized here, more so than the president. That all you cite to argue otherwise is an anecdote from the story that you don’t understand and aren’t familiar with speaks volumes.

  9. ggr says:

    Democrats made a big thing about Bush taking time off during a crisis of any kind (remember the message/golf shot?). Republicans will do the same about Obama. Both sides try to score points, so that’s pretty much expected.

    The difference in press coverage, if any, will be an interesting test, given how both sides claim the media is biased against them.

  10. John Cole says:

    Point two is proved by YOU– when Bush finishes the book reading on September 11th or goes golfing one day during the Iraq war, it’s a big gigantic thing.

    A.) Not sure who you think I am, but I never said anything about Bush reading a book.

    B.) America was attacked during that event, and Bush was her president. Obama is not the President of Iran.

    If you wanted a comparison, think Bush and McCain eating cake while Katrina hit. The difference of course, is that in Katrina, those were citizens Bush is actually tasked at defending.

    The Obama ice cream criticism and attending media criticism is stupidany way you slice it. And the Romo bit deserves nothing but bombastic mocking.

  11. John Cole says:

    BTW- I thought Bush quit golf to show solidarity with the troops.

  12. James Joyner says:

    BTW- I thought Bush quit golf to show solidarity with the troops.

    I think he did it because he realized the optics were bad.

  13. Matthew Stinson says:

    John, you stopped reading at Joyner saying “He’s right of course,” didn’t you? Professors should read all the way to the end, dontchaknow? 🙂

  14. The Strategic MC says:

    B.) America was attacked during that event, and Bush was her president. Obama is not the President of Iran.B.)

    So that’s the standard?

    If America isn’t being attacked or the Gulf Coast isn’t drowning, then foreign events, even those that are of vital interest to the U.S., can be met with calculated indifference by the POTUS?

  15. odograph says:

    Last night’s Saturday Night Live was a repeat from February, and opened with “Republicans” (Dan Ackryod) happily standing back from legislation, while looking for an “issue.” It was a moment of comedy when they went for “Whitehouse sleep-overs” as their issue.

    They ended with Ackroyd holding a poster of the two Obama kids, with the slogan “where’s the outrage?”

    … one of those art life cycles

  16. John Cole says:

    I think what we are missing here is that the analogy just makes no sense. The left’s criticisms of Bush were involved with Bush doing something while American troops were at risk or being harmed. I happen to think that was silly, but at least there was the fact that it was coherent. You might as well have a post up that sayd “Obama ate ice cream while people in Somalia dies.”

    So?

    If they had juxtaposed Obama getting ice cream while, say, several Americans were blown up in Afghanistan, as they were last night, it would be equally silly, but at least it would be coherent. Those are Americans, people Obama is tasked with leading and defending.

    But they didn’t- they juxtaposed Obama and the citizens of a country he is not responsible for and over which he has no control. Not only does he not have any control, but we all know America is not going to do anything. James has, quite sensibly, said so himself.

    The analogy just does not work, even at the most basic level. Moving on from there, and pretending that this is a valid media criticism also breaks down. Knoller is tasked with following Obama, presumably it makes sense for him to discuss it.

    And beyond even that, that is not the intent of the ice cream post to begin with- it was not media criticism, it was a transparent attempt to score petty political points over the horrifying deaths of those poor people in Iran.

  17. BTW- I thought Bush quit golf to show solidarity with the troops.

    I think he did it because he realized the optics were bad.

    Or maybe he realized trying to knock a ball into a distant hole with a crooked stick is idiotic. I mean, if you really need to have the ball in the hole just pick the damn ball up and drop it in.

  18. John Cole says:

    Or maybe he realized trying to knock a ball into a distant hole with a crooked stick is idiotic. I mean, if you really need to have the ball in the hole just pick the damn ball up and drop it in.

    Finally, agreement.

    Although for some reason, I think watching golf is actually pretty fun. Spending hours looking for a ball in the woods- not so much.

  19. G.A.Phillips says:

    It was a fathers day thing no harm no foul, plus he’s got top notch people working on everything 24/7. Anyone know the name of the new Iranian protest statement czar?…

    The Bush treatment was wrong but at least it sorta fit the propaganda…..

    FOUR!!!!!!!!

  20. G.A.Phillips says:

    And James, when are we getting the winners for best song 2008, or did I miss it, or has it been discontinued?

  21. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    You just got to love it. A Iranian Protest Czar, or is it Tzar? Oh Well, we will have to ask Michele.

  22. An Interested Party says:

    If America isn’t being attacked or the Gulf Coast isn’t drowning, then foreign events, even those that are of vital interest to the U.S., can be met with calculated indifference by the POTUS?

    Surely you aren’t suggesting that the president enjoying some ice cream with his daughters on Father’s Day weekend is “calculated indifference”…

  23. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    I would never suggest the leader of the once free world should not share Ice Cream with his daughters. He might do it in a less conspicuous location however. One would think, however he might be at work rather than fu*king off during a game changer in Iran. What should he be doing, you ask? Don’t know, am not President, however it seems like when a country who’s leaders call us the great Satan are having a little trouble with their control of the citizenry. Would it be untimely to offer, through the back door, a return of some of the weaponry Iran sent to Iraq which proved itself less than helpful in our efforts? When are you going to stop making excuses for this poor excuse of a President?

  24. An Interested Party says:

    So I assume that the host of this blog as well as any other conservatives who think what the president did was no big deal are also “making excuses” for him? When are you going to take off your tinfoil hat and stop supplying the silly reactionary right-wing drivel that you usually present here? As for your suggestion, our country already made a shady arms deal with Iran in the 80s…we don’t need to do that again…

  25. Michele says:

    I haven’t read ALL the posts, but I saw enough that said something like “Who cares what Obama did?”

    The Iranian people care. For the last few day, I have been in touch with Iranian people asking where Obama has been. They want to know what he thinks, how he’s supporting them… even many who don’t want him to meddle.

    The young Iranians really like knowing that we in the west care for them. They admire Obama and were impressed by his Middle East speeches he gave.

    They are risking their lives for freedom. So for Obama to be yucking it up at the Correspondents’ dinner and lapping up ice cream… let’s just say it’s his “Mission Accomplished” “Good Job, Brownie” moment. It’s a world changing time in history right now – as the leader of the free world, you take a stance or you don’t.

  26. Guido says:

    They are risking their lives for freedom. So for Obama to be yucking it up at the Correspondents’ dinner and lapping up ice cream… let’s just say it’s his “Mission Accomplished” “Good Job, Brownie” moment. It’s a world changing time in history right now – as the leader of the free world, you take a stance or you don’t.

    Uh he did take a stand in his statement on Friday right? Sorry comparing this with Bush’s photo op is frankly idiotic. Seriously what do you propose he should do? Invade Iran? Every single country in the world does things we don’t like. Should our POTUS spend 24 hours a day criticizing and invading them? This is partisan bickering and nothing else. And coming from the family values right no less…..

  27. Michele says:

    Guido, dear –

    I think he should NOT BE EATING FREAKIN’ ICE CREAM AND MAKING JOKES WHEN PEOPLE ARE BEING SLAUGHTERED.

    Is that clear? Good.

    I’m not asking anymore from the man than that. But I’ll tell my Iranian friends that in the free world a person is not to question the president.

    Good to know. Thanks!

  28. Guido says:

    Michele. So he should go on a hunger strike or something?

    Liked how you changed to subject and put words in my mouth btw.

  29. John Cole says:

    I think he should NOT BE EATING FREAKIN’ ICE CREAM AND MAKING JOKES WHEN PEOPLE ARE BEING SLAUGHTERED.

    I was unpersuaded and thought you were just another melodramatic wingnut, what with the comparisons to Bush and Katrina, but now that you have upped the ante and gone all caps, I CLEARLY AGREE WITH YOU THAT PEOPLE SHOULD NOT EAT ICE CREAM WHEN PEOPLE ARE BEING SLAUGHTERED. SINCE PEOPLE ARE INVARIABLY BEING SLAUGHTERED SOMEWHERE AT ALL POINTS IN THE DAY, ARE YOU MOVING FORWARD WITH LEGISLATION TO BAN ICE CREAM?

  30. Matthew Stinson says:

    Clearly, John, there should be an official ban on presidential fun during all moments of crisis, anytime, anywhere 😉

  31. John:

    Obviously you don’t understand: Sudan, Congo, Burma et al do not warrant an ice cream fatwa because none of those are being used by Fox News to bash Obama.

    Only those crises and genocides on Hannity require presidential ice cream forbearance.

  32. An Interested Party says:

    I’m not asking anymore from the man than that.

    Oh, so then it would be ok if he ate some sorbet and recited a dirty limerick instead…