What a difference a storm named Sandy makes, eh, Mr. President?
Thanks to Sandy, Barack Obama can act presidential once again — at least on TV. Sandy allows him to get on that phone with those FEMA bureaucrats and tell them to stop talking and do something. And Sandy brought him praise from that chunky Republican governor from New Jersey.
But the most important thing superstorm Sandy has done is rescue Obama from Benghazi, where four Americans, including a U.S. ambassador, were killed by terrorists.
Notice Obama isn't being asked whether aid was denied in Benghazi. Instead, he's invited to demonstrate to voters how much aid he's going to bring to the Northeast, as he becomes the great Federal Daddy to storm-tossed battleground states.
If Obama isn't the luckiest politician in history, would you please name another?
The president appeared Tuesday at a news conference at the Red Cross headquarters in Washington, showing himself to be a man of resolve in crisis. He was ostentatiously not campaigning. Rather, he was doing what I'd call "presidencing."
"My instructions to the federal agents has been, 'Do not figure out why we can't do something. I want you to figure out how we do something,'" Obama said.
"I want you to cut through red tape, I want you to cut through bureaucracy; there's no excuse for inaction at this point. I want every agency to lean forward and to make sure we are getting the resources where they're needed as quickly as possible."
Who wrote that — Axelrod?
No excuse for inaction? Don't figure out why something can't be done, just do it already? A man of action and command? That's Obama. This week.
Yet a few weeks ago, there was a different Obama, the Obama of Sept. 11, the Obama of Benghazi, when Ambassador Chris Stevens and three others were killed by terrorists. Almost as depressing as reports of their deaths was the fact that no military help arrived in a firefight that lasted more than six hours.
Was the president watching it all in the White House situation room? We don't know. Jay Leno didn't ask him, neither did David Letterman, nor the ladies of "The View" or music journalists on MTV. These are the places he goes so as to get big hugs, not hard questions, as President Eye-Candy.
Obama's soothsayers manufactured an alternate reality about Benghazi, that the attack was in response to some ridiculous anti-Muslim video on YouTube. His spin experts confused the issue enough so that Team Obama can lunge to Election Day.
Despite the best efforts of some in the news media to keep the damage to a minimum, Benghazi hurt him. The idea of a commander in chief unable or unwilling to make decisions isn't very presidential. And the fact that he left Washington after the attack for a Las Vegas fundraiser didn't help.
But now, with superstorm Sandy, Obama isn't taking off for fundraisers. He's at work, compelling bureaucrats to action. And as he did his thing at the Red Cross in Washington, reporters hunted Romney down in Ohio.
According to the Romney media pool report at a storm relief event, Romney was repeatedly asked whether he would cut the Federal Emergency Management Agency as he once suggested he would. He ignored the questions, but they shouted them on camera anyway, the pack chasing the prey:
"Governor, are you going to eliminate FEMA?"
"Governor, you've been asked 14 times, why are you refusing to answer the question?"
This Sandy business must have Republicans ripping their hair out, but the questions are fair. Romney has talked about cutting FEMA. And now that Federal Daddy brings the FEMA goods a week before the election, the questions are legitimate.
Yet why weren't such questions asked, in a similar manner, relentlessly, about Obama and Benghazi? Why this and not that?
One answer is that storms are not ambiguous. They're powerful, they provide compelling visuals, of devastation and survivors weeping. What's more, the political response involves action and federal muscle, both easy to show in TV pictures.
Benghazi also offered powerful visuals, of fires burning and anguished survivors and coffins. But Benghazi is overseas, and New York is New York.
We don't know all the details about Benghazi because the Obama administration is making things as unclear as possible. What we do know — and here liberals and conservatives would agree — is that Benghazi is a public relations problem. Yet even on those terms the media haven't hounded him.
They hound Romney, though, for talking about cutting federal storm relief, then trying to campaign in a storm. That one's easy, and there's delicious meat on the bones of it, and if some think that consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, the little-minded response is, yeah, well, it's news.
But Obama should be held to the same standard. At the Red Cross, as the resolute man of action, saying he wouldn't stand for red tape and bureaucracy, it was all quite presidential.
If only he'd acted as presidential during and after the attack on Benghazi, where those four Americans waited for almost seven hours for help that did not come.
Twitter @John_KassCopyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun