When even left wing journalists and foreign newspapers begin to question President Obama’s commitment to duty in the face of the world’s current turbulence, our country's leader should take a cue from a revered and respected chief of state who is known for commitment to duty and service to nation rather than for golf outings and fundraisers.
Over the weekend, columnist Maureen Dowd noted her disapproval in Sunday's New York Times, commenting on Obama’s “…grinning in a golf cart juxtaposed with ones of James Foley’s parents crying, and a distraught David Cameron rushing back from his vacation after only one day…”
Recently dubbed “worst president since World War II,” in one poll even in the face of tumultuous world events, Obama maintains his leisure program.
Unsurprisingly, his popularity has plummeted. But a recent CNN article reports that, at age 88, Queen Elizabeth, who “maintains an active schedule and is the patron of more than 600 charities and organizations,” enjoys approval ratings “at an all time high.”
To be fair, U.S. presidents head the government in addition to serving as head of state, and thus they face greater public scrutiny than a constitutional monarch in carrying out their roles.
Nevertheless, in the capacity to stir national pride and unity – a critical function of a U.S. president – Obama could take a page (or thousand) from the playbook of Her Majesty, head of state of the United Kingdom and 14 other Commonwealth realms.
Great heads of state champion the assets and character of their nation and encourage unity, pride and success.
An excellent example is Ronald Reagan, whose narrative reinforced America's indomitable optimism and plentiful gifts that warranted safeguarding.
Obama seems to champion a different narrative. He retreats from touting America's excellence and strength. He seems not to embrace the idea of America leading, but rather fitting in as just one citizen of a global community where coalitions and diplomacy, even with enemies, are preferred to projecting strength.
Not surprisingly, Obama has a somewhat difficult relationship with those who protect our liberty. His first secretary of defense, Robert Gates, explains in his book, “Duties: Memoirs of a Secretary at War,” that Obama was “deeply suspicious” of the military. When Obama addresses military audiences, instead of stirring the spirit of the assembled company, his words fall flat, as they did at a recent speech at West Point that analyst Dick Morris called “A defense of weakness.”
Whether he's chewing gum at a D-Day commemoration or skipping the Memorial Day ceremony at Arlington Cemetery, as he did in 2010, or failing to return the salute of a marine who guards him, unlike Reagan or the Queen, Obama hardly revels in the celebration of our armed forces.
In stunning contrast, Elizabeth II is an extraordinary example of putting country before self and a superb champion of national pride, unity and strength.
A few weeks ago, the queen and her family celebrated and remembered the lives and sacrifices of Great Britain’s service members in a legion of moving tributes primarily focused on the centenary of the outbreak of World War I. Her Majesty and family were front and center – laying wreaths, giving speeches, meeting veterans – in short, paying homage to those who gave so much for Britain’s freedom and security.
Obama should assess the consequences of his approach by comparing current poll numbers.
In the poll I mentioned earlier, CNN notes that Obama is viewed as “the worst president since WWII,” currently rating only 41 percent approval.
By comparison, 2012 polling data show that the monarchy’s popularity in Britain is at an all-time high of 80 percent favorable.
Nile Gardiner, director of the Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom at The Heritage Foundation, sums it up well in The Telegraph when he notes, “The Queen is a model of Anglo-American world leadership, and has won the hearts and affection of the American people from the days of Eisenhower to the present…”
Her Majesty continually fulfills the promise she made 67 years ago: “I declare before you all that my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong.”
Obama would do well to embody even a fraction of those inspiring words.
Lee Cohen, head of the New York office of Off the Record Strategies and New York Director of The Anglosphere Society, spent years advising the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee on Western European affairs, and was founding Executive Director of the House United Kingdom Caucus.