Who Ya Gonna Call? Or Not.
Obama never phoned Florida's Republican governor, part of a long list of no-calls
It should not surprise anyone that President Obama failed to call Florida Gov. Rick Scott in the days after the Orlando massacre, the worst terrorist attack in the United States since 9/11 and the biggest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.
Such a call would have been both symbolically appropriate and of serious practical value.
Of course, such a call would have been both symbolically appropriate and of serious practical value. The governor would be on top of the latest information about the shooting, aware of what local authorities are learning about the shooter and any possible conspiracy, and could describe how federal and local authorities could coordinate assistance. Obama could then directly issue informed orders to his aides about appropriate steps the federal government could take.
And he might, instead of haranguing Republicans and Donald Trump about their response to the disaster, have taken a moment to express his grief to the governor on behalf of the nation.
But such an omission by the president is nothing new. Whether it comes to his polices or his use of the phone, Obama, it seems, always makes the wrong call.
Last July, another Islamist terrorist killed four Marines and mortally wounded a Navy sailor in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Cathy Wells, the mother of one of the deceased, 21-year-old Marine Lance Cpl. Skip Wells, was asked on Fox News’ “Hannity” days later whether she had heard from Obama. “No,” she said, though it didn’t faze this brave woman.
“He died for his country, doing what he loved for the love of his country and for his family,” she said. Hannity, for his part, “lamented that the White House went out of its way to put up rainbow-colored lights on the day of the recent Supreme Court ruling in favor of gay marriage, yet cannot pick up the phone to call the five grieving military families,” Fox reported.
Indeed, Obama bothered to make a phone call the day the ruling came down. The president, who just a few years back vocally opposed gay marriage, telephoned the lead plaintiff in the case, Jim Obergefell.
The president is famous for rarely bothering to pick up the phone to build relationships on Capitol Hill — and then complaining that nobody wants to work with him.
“Is this Jim?” the president can be heard saying in a video of the exchange shot by CNN.
“Yes it is, Mr. President,” an excited Obergefell replied.
A few years before, Obama also managed to call Sandra Fluke, who unlike Cpl. Wells hadn’t lost her life, but rather had her feelings hurt by Rush Limbaugh. Fluke had testified at a faux-hearing arranged by congressional Democrats that the failure of Georgetown University, a Jesuit university morally opposed to artificial birth control, to provide coverage for contraceptives was harmful to her.
Limbaugh quipped, “She must be paid to have sex, what does that make her? It makes her a slut, right? It makes her a prostitute. She wants to be paid to have sex. She’s having so much sex she can’t afford the contraception.”
The outrage quickly went national. Soon enough, Obama was on the phone. “He encouraged me and supported me and thanked me for speaking out about the concerns of American women,” Fluke said. “And what was really personal for me was that he said to tell my parents that they should be proud.”
There was, as far as we know, no call to Georgetown University to express empathy that it was being pressured to violate its religious principles.
While Fluke was on Obama’s call list, members of Congress generally are not. The president is famous for rarely bothering to pick up the phone to build relationships on Capitol Hill — and then complaining that nobody wants to work with him.
In this, Obama shows a rare knack for bipartisanship. Democrats don’t get calls, either.
“He doesn’t call. He doesn’t write. He doesn’t drop by for a visit,” Politico reported in 2012. “That’s what some of the most senior Democrats in Congress are experiencing from President Barack Obama these days.
“Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad, D-N.D., is trying to cut a deal on the nation’s fiscal crisis, but he can’t recall the last time he talked to the president. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, is in charge of one of Obama’s top priorities — preventing a rate increase on student loans — but he hasn’t talked to the president in months.”
But Raul Castro, who has been assisting his brother Fidel in the oppression of the Cuban people for more than a half century, gets to chat Obama up on the phone. In the lead-up to the normalization of relations with Communist regime, Barack and Raul spoke at least twice. Chatted amicably, even.
“My opening remarks probably took about 15 minutes, which on the phone is a pretty long time,” Obama told reporters at the White House. “At the end of my remarks, I apologized for taking such a long time … He said, ‘Oh, don’t worry about it, Mr. President, you’re still a young man and you have still the chance to break Fidel’s record — he once spoke seven hours straight,'” Obama continued as the reporters on hand giggled.
Our greatest allies, however, cannot always count on such telephonic indulgence. After Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu squeaked through to re-election, a peeved Obama waited two days to call to congratulate him, and then only after being pressured to do so.
Even winners of sporting contests routinely get a quicker response, like Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos Coach Gary Kubiak last February.
“I want to let you know that that’s about as good a defense as I’ve seen since the ’85 Bears,” Obama told him.
No doubt, after that call, the world is a better place.
Keith Koffler is the editor of the website White House Dossier.