So President Obama's getting lots of static for his remarks about "whose ass to kick" over the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Why? This is exactly what I'd say.
Like Obama, I'm an overly analytical type. A metaphorical lover, not a stereotypical fighter. If I felt the need to kick ass and the whole world was watching, I would lay out my case for said ass-kicking. I'd do this with the best of intentions, to appear tough but intelligent at the same time. It's a difficult line to straddle on any level, much less on a presidential one.
And has anyone taken as much heat from both sides as President Obama? There are the conservatives who will rip into him for absolutely every reason, even if they trip all over their ideology to do so. That's to be expected. And there are the liberals who chastise him for not doing enough or for saying the wrong thing. No surprise there either. Obama's in what would be a bad spot for anyone, let alone someone so cerebral in an age of ass-kicking, often accused of not kicking enough ass and then getting slammed when he finally speaks of kicking ass.
And never was that dilemma more clear than it is here. For whatever progress the Obama administration is or isn't making in the Gulf, the perception issue is one he isn't likely to win in the short term. His options are thus:
1) Continue being calm and analytical, as he had been up to this point, and have people angry at him for not being angry like them;
2) Express uncharacteristic anger, earning derision for the unexpected behavior (mainly from the same angry people who'd deride him over the first option) and accusations that he's being handled by PR flacks;
3) Straddle the line as he did, showing disgust in the calm, cool way that should actually impress the hell out of people, if we weren't so hopped up on jaded-flavored contrarian syrup laced with testosterone powder.
No matter which road he chose, Obama would feel every bump and pothole.
Obama reminds me of my late track coach, who never cursed or otherwise showed negative emotions. So when he gave you a glance of disapproval or finally let loose with a "fuck," it hit you with that much more impact. I remember early in Obama's presidency when Joe Biden made a crack at a Republican, and Obama stood next to him with a stern, disapproving face. It actually scared me a little bit just watching on television. But it was also reassuring, because it showed that Obama aims to take the high road almost to a fault.
George W. Bush made a lot of ass-kissin' comments in his day, appealing to the base that today wags its finger at Obama for allegedly doing the same thing. The difference with Bush was that he did it with a smirk and proudly in-your-face rhetoric, with a self-satisfied gusto that can be seen even in his current Haiti aid commercials with Bill Clinton. It was reckless and counterproductive. It was also, ultimately, worthless. When it's your only language, as it was with Bush, it's hard to take seriously. But Obama talking even slightly more tough? It's hard not to take notice. And that's why his comments caused such an uproar in the first place.
Somewhere, a guilty ass is clenching tight, knowing deep down that Obama will eventually kick it with fury. Not your standard fury, but a measured, calibrated, cerebral fury. The worst kind there is. And Obama's giving them time to think about it, which itself has to be devastating. That's kick-ass, no matter how you slice it.