When Senator Barack Obama was campaigning for his job as POTUS, he told his supporters that leaders should be capable of doing more than one thing at a time. We all came away believing that he was that kind of leader. After Mr. Obama received the Democratic nomination he got an almost immediate challenge. The globe's financial system crashed.
The Bush administration , wisely, read him in on what they were doing to cope with it at every step of the way. President-elect Obama was also read into the secret world of national intelligence with a daily briefing. Coming to understand the risks and opportunities in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, Israel, Palestine, Russia, China and North Korea, the President-to-be juggled thoughts and ideas about both foreign and domestic policy. And he and his transition team began to choose the members of his new administration, people who could keep up with his intellect and his pace.
In January of 2009, InaugurationDay set the pattern of juggling a number of disparate agenda items and it has remained that way now for 9 months. Almost from the beginning there were those who accused the President of trying to do too much. Up to this point we do not know if that is the case. Actually, in most cases it does not seem as if the administration has had the choice to demur or defer. So the President scheduled a daily economic briefing as well as intelligence briefing.
December saw the beginning of withdrawal from Iraq. January was the beginning of withdrawal from Gitmo. At the same time there began a full and complicated re-engagement with countries and peoples all around the globe. The main focus was on Afghanistan and Pakistan (Af-Pak in 2009-speak). And so it is that President Obama is juggling Wall Street, health care reform, and the war in Afghanistan. Each issue gets attention and action every day. But we are spoiled by now and criticize the administration because it might take until the end of the year to complete the new health care legislation. And it might take until after the Afghanistan run-off election on November 7 to learn what the President's strategy for the future engagement in Af-Pak is to be.
W e live in a 24-hour cable news cycle that voraciously consumes the President's juggling act. Notice that jugglers do not hide anything, they just keep several balls in the air at once, there for all to see. But magicians do not believe in transparency. At no time was President Obama's leadership ever a magic act. His leadership skills seems to have elements of capacity to be fully present in the moment, talent for communication, bountiful intellect, and a willingness to listen and learn from what others have to say.
So juggling is the job. As I have been learning how to use the Twitter application, it has always felt like juggling. For example, TweetDeck gives me little notifications that blink on and off as I am writing or reading or searching. If I am quick I can do something with each tweet -- true multi-tasking. I stay informed about the news that way, though not deeply informed. For that one must go to the story that is linked.
**********The following set of "Af-Pak tweets," saved as favorites in recent weeks, might serve as a useful metaphor for the juggling style and pace of the current administration. I have sorted them into the issues represented by the war and conflict in South Asia:
Developing an over arching regional strategy -- "New York Times: Military Establishment Frustrated With Pace Of Obama's Deliberations On Afghan War http://bit.ly/35lAfB ," is from The Huffington Post (10/19/09). " Are Obama advisers downplaying Afghan dangers? http://bit.ly/4gy2Lz ," is from the New York Times (10/11/09). " Surgical Strikes Shape Afghanistan Debate http://bit.ly/Et1Oa ," is from the New York Times (10/5/09). " @chucktpolitical al q is an ideology. Taliban are a leadership structure in a particular region of the world that promotes the ideology," is from Marc Ambinder (10/5/09) . " RT @attackerman : Gates: 'we are not leaving afgh. this discussion is about the next steps forward... no uncertainty '," is from Marc Ambinder (10/5/09 ). " Obama repeatedly mentioned Pakistan's stability when asked about US interests in the region. Which means: India is the fulcrum," is from Marc Ambinder (9/20/09).
Politics -- "RT @attackerman : Prediction: the Karzai runoff deal is the moment Kerry clinched SecState when HRC leaves," is from Marc Ambinder (10/20/09) . " Why Huffington Is Wrong on Biden http://bit.ly/aFxcJ ," is from The Nation Magazine (10/16/09). " Afghanistan to lead discussions on [television] shows: President Barack Obama's options in Afghanistan will again be on the .. http://bit.ly/3kbpWg ," is from The Hill (10/10/09). " Gates: Bush lacked Afghanistan strategy ; Obama's is 'first real' one: Robert Gates said that his former boss di.. http://bit.ly/2kJGQx ," is from The Hill (9/27/09).
Afghanistan elections -- "Wow This is big ||RT @jaketapper WP reports looks like ECC will reduce Karzai vote to about 47%, prompting runoff> http://bit.ly/4a7g4h ," is from Libby Spencer (10/15/09). " Karzai’s Running Mate Poised for Return http://bit.ly/Vd3bs ," is from the New York Times (10/5/09).
" RT @jeremyscahill : No US Interference in Afghan Elecs--Except James Carville and the US Occupation: http://bit.ly/9N32u ," is from The Nation Magazine (8/17/09 ).
Afghanistan development -- "Afghan economy stumbles amid election uncertainty http://bit.ly/j77Fs ," is from McClatchy (10/16/09). "Civilian Goals Largely Unmet in Afghanistan http://bit.ly/GplzG ," is from the New York Times (10/11/09).
Afghanistan's internal conflict -- " A Dogged Taliban Chief Rebounds , Vexing U.S. http://bit.ly/13ilo9 ," is from the New York Times (10/10/09).
Pakistan's internal conflict and terrorism -- " Pakistani Police Had Warned Army About a Raid http://bit.ly/2jtZp ," is from the New York Times (10/11/09). " Terrorists assault center of Pakistan's military HQ http://bit.ly/1P4plM ," is from McClatchy (10/10/09). " C.I.A. Said to Use Outsiders to Put Bombs on Drones http://bit.ly/Avz8T ," is from The New York Times (8/20/09).
Military contracting -- "Oversight hearing next week on Obama administration contracting policies. Working on future Iraq contracting vs Afghnstn contracting hearing," is from Sen. Claire McKaskill (10/21/09).
People to people -- " Heartbreaking: Haunting eyes - Photos: The faces of Pakistan's children http://bit.ly/TRkQm ," is from Libby Spencer (10/11/09).
Check it out.