In coming weeks, there will be a great deal of public discourse about the actions or inactions of President Bush during the seven minutes after he first received word that the nation had been attacked.
Supporters will argue that the President sought to maintain a look of calm and was determined not to appear overly shocked or upset during a moment of crisis. Critics will suggest the President wasted precious moments and should have immediately excused himself from the room.
I personally think both goals could have been easily met (“Kids, can you excuse me for a moment, I need to take care of some presidential duties, why don’t you all keep reading.”), but we need to remember the unprecedented nature of the moment. I think it is in some ways a bit petty to rip the President on this issue.
What is more interesting is the nature of the office in this age of 24-hour media coverage. As the coverage has increased, so too has the importance of the president as symbolic leader and communicator – at the expense of roles such as Commander in Chief. The way a moment looks has become, in many ways, more important than action taken. The office of the presidency has become a photo-op.
Is that a good thing? Should we necessarily have live televised access to our leaders’ every gesture and facial twitch during times of crisis?
The job after all is about a lot more than projecting a certain image at a certain moment. Or is it?