President Obama’s team have been trying to let Americans in on one of their inside jokes. They’ve begun using the hashtag #TheBearIsLoose –a phrase coined during the presidential elections when president Obama deviated the schedule.
It was meant as a way to playfully humanize a man who generally tends not to enjoy spending time with too many humans. But it’s also an unfortunate choice of words given that a bear is a widely used symbol for Russia, a nation currently threatening to destabilize Europe. Westerners originated the metaphor to describe Russia as “big, brutal and clumsy,” but Russians happily co-opted it, thinking of the creature more for its power and cunning.
Regardless of the meaning of the metaphor, the Russian bear is clearly loose. First it annexed Crimea while amassing troops along the border, then it destabilized eastern Ukraine with a wave of propaganda and a proliferation of weapons, and now it is actively working with separatists in Donetsk and Luhansk, the same groups accused of shooting down Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 last week.
And while the Russian bear is out stirring up trouble the Obama bear seems to have kickstarted the lame duck period of the presidency a little earlier than usual. In the past few weeks the president has been out getting burgers and cracking jokes after the Malaysian airliner went down, shooting pool and drinking beer as a humanitarian crisis raged on the border, and sitting down to dinner with European “intellettuali” to discuss “the future of the universe” while violence erupted between Israel and Palestinians.
The White House has brushed off concerns over his questionable choices. The president is just “restless” and “weary of the obligations of the White House”; he “just wants to get out” and “free himself from the constraints of office,” they say.
But in reality the schedule has been built around fundraising trips. That became evident last week when the president spent time in Texas raising money rather than visiting the border. He went to a $32,400-per-plate dinner hosted by attorney Marc Stanley in Dallas before flying to Austin for separate fundraisers by director Robert Rodriguez and abortion activist Aimee Boone Cunningham.
President Obama’s decision to visit Texas, but not the border, floored some within his own party. Democrat Rep. Henry Cuellar said that he was “floored” by Obama’s decision to play pool in Colorado rather than make a trip to the border to see the humanitarian crisis first hand. Cuellar ripped the president for appearing “aloof” and “detached” while people were suffering.
As if to cement Cuellar’s assessment, the president chose to press ahead with his fundraising schedule in the wake of the terrorist attack by Russian-backed separatists. The New York Times reports:
As smoke billowed from the downed Malaysian jetliner in the fields of eastern Ukraine on Thursday, President Obama pressed ahead with his schedule: a cheeseburger with fries at the Charcoal Pit in Delaware, a speech about infrastructure and two splashy fund-raisers in New York City.
The potential for jarring split-screen imagery was clear. Reports of charred bodies and a ground-to-air missile attack from Eastern Europe dominated television screens while photographers snapped pictures of a grinning Mr. Obama holding a toddler at the restaurant. The presidential motorcade was later filmed pulling up to Trump Place Apartments, the Riverside Avenue venue for his first fund-raiser.
And yet, White House aides said no consideration was given to abandoning the president’s long-planned schedule, even during the hourlong flight from Delaware to New York, when word suddenly arrived that Israel had begun a ground invasion of the Gaza Strip, providing the day’s second international challenge.
Sure, several continents are at risk of being destabilized by rogue powers, but hey – the bear is loose and he’s got some serious money to raise. All hail the fundraiser in chief.