Whether or not you support Barack Obama, most agree the President can deliver a speech. During these moments, he sounds confident, reflecting a leader who is intelligent, compassionate, and likable. Add a subject about which Obama feels passionately, and the recipe is complete, resulting in the uncanny ability to influence, persuade, and make those from a distance feel connected to him.
In 2008, we witnessed his soaring hope and change rhetoric rally a nation, persuading a majority of Americans to join him and give his way a chance.
In contrast, even the most ardent of George W. Bush supporters would agree public speaking was not his strength. The passion of subject provided little improvement, leaving supporters cringing with each ‘Bushism’, and holding their breath, hoping for the best.
While President Obama possesses an oratory gift allowing for connection to the American people from afar, President Bush has the uncanny ability to connect with those he meets personally, on an emotional level, meeting them exactly where they are in the moment.
In the book The Amateur, Edward Klein interviewed over 200 people to gain a perspective of President Obama’s character from many who knew him well. According to Klein, Dr. David Scheiner, Obama’s personal physician for over 20 years, describes him as “one of his most cold, distant patients, who he could never get to know because he was a person who had very little human contact with other people.”
In contrast, Walt Harrington, a journalist and Democrat who disagreed with most Bush policies, said about the President, “I have told various George W. haters that they had best not underestimate the man,” adding, “that he’s smart, thoughtful in a brawny kind of wa,y and most of all, a good and decent man.” Harrington goes on to say, he “voted against this good and decent man. It pained me to do it.”
From differing speaking style and personality, to a differing political philosophy, it would appear little connects them. However, each man is a husband and a father of two girls, each is highly protective of their brood, and each has served as President during a terrorist attack on U.S. soil.
George W. Bush served as President during the worst terrorist attack in American history; while Barack Obama’s presidency marks the highest number of terrorist attacks on the country and its citizens to date.
In addition to the horrific beheading of two American Journalists by ISIS, Obama’s six years in office include terrorist attacks at the Boston Marathon, the Fort Hood massacre, labeled as “work place violence”, and Benghazi.
After such an attack, a leader’s response is significant, offering support to a grieving nation while projecting strength to those who mean to do the nation harm.
President Obama and President Bush each had the burden of responding to a terrorism attack placed on their shoulders, and their responses differ as much as their public speaking styles.
One President’s response transformed a man into a resolute leader, whose love for this country shown through while the others response was timid, less assured and lacked resolve.
While addressing the nation, each man was calm and serious, but this is where the similarity in response ends. President Bush called the attack for what it was…’deliberate and deadly terrorist attacks …mass murder…by evil’ while President Obama referred to Benghazi as an ‘outrageous and shocking attack’.
President Bush saw 9/11/2001 as a terrorist attack on our nation, while Obama saw 9/11/2012 as an ‘[attack] on our people’.
President Bush sought to lift and rally our grieving nation saying, “These acts of mass murder were intended to frighten our nation into chaos and retreat. But they have failed. Our country is strong. A great people has been moved to defend a great nation.” While President Obama sought to rally the world I suppose by saying, “We grieve with their families, but let us carry on their memory, and let us continue their work of seeking a stronger America and a better world for all of our children.”
The post attack responses were vastly different indeed, illuminating key differences between the two men going far beyond their oratory ability or lack there of.
The responses after each attack illustrate a difference in ideology and the consequences for its implementation. When you refuse to call an act what it is; terrorism, or identify its perpetrators for what they are; evil, you project weakness not only to the citizens you serve, but to those who mean our nation harm.
One president’s response showed strength, rallied a nation and resulted in no further terrorist attacks during his tenure. President Obama’s response showed weakness to our enemies, created doubt across the nation, and resulted not in Al Qaeda on the run, but instead its rise in the form of ISIS, along with the distinction of having the highest number of attacks while in office. Unfortunately for Americans, we have two more years to go.