President Barack Obama was raked over the coals on MSNBC’s Morning Joe program over the chief executive’s short remarks in the wake of the Brussels terrorist attack and his decision to attend a baseball game in Havana with Cuban dictator Raul Castro. After that, as part of his Latin American junket, Obama visited Buenos Aires to confer with Argentine President Mauricio Macri and to dance the tango with an attractive Latin siren.
Bloomberg Politics host Mark Halperin said today on Morning Joe that the president had committed a public relations blunder. “I think the consensus for most people who watch this stuff is that the baseball game, the way he handled it was a mistake,” said Halperin. “…I think there’s no doubt people would like to see more stagecraft and a balance towards decisive action, rather than business as usual from the president.”
Mika Brzezinski, whose father Zbigniew Brzezinski was National Security advisor to President Jimmy Carter, said of the fiasco, “I was critical yesterday of the optics of the baseball game.” She added, “I’m not saying he shouldn’t have gone. I feel like it should have been handled differently, everything about it.”
Republicans such as Sen. Ted Cruz and Gov. John Kasich said that Obama should have returned to Washington in an effort to reassure European allies, and the American public, following the bombings that killed 34 and injured 200. Among the wounded are 11 Americans. Four Americans are missing.
The Council on Foreign Relations president Richard Haas said that Obama did not agree that Obama should have cancelled his trip. “However, the advance person who let him do the tango, that person ought to be looking for work on somebody’s campaign very, very far away,” he said. “That was a tremendous mistake. It’s fine to go to Argentina, you want to do the work. But you have to be careful of these these little photo ops and optics. Baseball games and tangos, that’s inconsistent with the seriousness of the day,” he said.
Brzezinski admitted that it “felt really strange” to see Obama watching a ballgame with the Cuban dictator. She said that he was seen with “his sleeves are rolled up, he had shades on, doing ESPN interviews, it felt really strange to me.”
Others opined that Obama had made a policy choice, not a public relations gaffe. “I think [former CIA director] Michael Hayden offered the best explanation for it,” GOP strategist Nicolle Wallace said. “These were not advance staff gaffes… this was Obama’s policy choice.” See Spero News coverage here.
“His policy choice was to proceed with everything on his schedule and not to react to the threat of terrorism,” she said. “And that is his prerogative but it puts him vastly out of step with the entire American public, not just Republicans. You heard Democrats yesterday increasingly uncomfortable with the choices he makes at a moment of crisis.”
“There were mothers lying dead while their family members were at the crime scene yesterday. And to look like the priority is to go on a foreign trip instead of pausing for a minute and explaining that to America is a communications crime.”