CNN Panel Goes Nuclear on Obama Over Going to Ball Game, Dancing the Tango Post-Brussels

Moments after video surfaced on Wednesday night of President Obama doing the tango while visiting Argentina, the panel on CNN’s AC360 did little to contain their disdain for the President continuing to engage in lighter fare they dubbed “frivolous” and “shameful” in the immediate 24-36 hours after the deadly Islamic terror attacks in Brussels, Belgium.

Fill-in host John Berman played video of the President engaged in the tango with a professional dancer and turned to senior political commentator David Gergen for his thoughts. At first, the reliably liberal Gergen regurgitated the President’s outlook on reacting to acts of terrorism.

“Well, to be fair, the President has a belief that restraint is the best thing he can do. He does not want to seem like he’s rushed into anything. You know, that somehow he gets all shaken up and so, he wants to hold back,” Gergen exclaimed.

Gergen flipped the script from there, however, and voiced his firm disagreement with the President’s decision-making:

I think people now after all the attacks, we've had an attack a day around the world for the last 12 days, but after San Bernardino and Paris and Brussels and Ankara and Istanbul, people are looking for more forceful action to actually drive back ISIS and right now, we're not winning again ISIS. 

He added that he would have suggested the President spend a sizeable portion of his Tuesday speech in Havana on the situation in Brussels but, alas, the President didn’t and so Gergen ruled that Obama “really have underplayed it” and “brushed it off.”

The adviser to multiple presidents concluded his frank assessment by suggesting that Obama should have considering returning to the U.S.:

When you go to a baseball game, it looks a little frivolous. When you’re dancing like that. I — I even think the hard call, he should have thought about coming back and gathering — people are looking for leadership here. I thinks that's a critical issue for him. Restraint does not equal leadership when you’re under attack like this.

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In the remaining time, CNN political commentator and NewsBusters contributing writer Jeffrey Lord brought up a BBC interview with former British Prime Minister Tony Blair conducted right before the attacks:

[H]e was talking about this very issue and he said that when people are forced to choose between what they see as — eh — liberalism that was flexible and not assertive, versus a hard line — position that they inevitably, when faced with terror, will go straight to the hard liners. I really think that's what you're seeing. He said this before all this transpired, but I think he was right about it. 

While Gergen and Lord had some strong criticism to offer, CNN political commentator Ana Navarro was both rhetorically and visibly livid at the President’s behavior. 

“I think the entire thing is horrible. It reminded me of when he went golfing right after James Foley's head was cut off,” Navarro began.

Navarro went onto excoriate the President’s actions as “inexcusable” considering the fact that “the entire world is standing in solidarity with Brussels, is in shock, is in grief” while he was “sitting next to a dictator who has been in power for 56 years who has ordered the shootdown of American citizens, who has been anti-American for 56 years.”

As the segment came to a close, Navarro unloaded the rest of her grievances: “I think President Obama knows full well that optics matter, but he chose his legacy over optics and it was a shameful, shameful disappointing moment for President Obama. I was disappointed. I was not surprised.”

The relevant portion of the transcript from CNN’s AC360 on March 23 can be found below.

Anderson Cooper 360
March 23, 2016
9:45 p.m. Eastern

JOHN BERMAN: A lot of what's being said on the Republican side is in reaction to how President Obama is dealing with this most recent terror attack in Brussels and some would say the lack of reaction by President Obama. He continued his trip to Cuba. He went to the baseball game in Cuba. He is now continuing his trip to Argentina and I have to show you pictures of a short time ago. President Obama in Argentina dancing, doing the tango. Hopefully we have that video. Here's the president. [MUSIC PLAYING FROM VIDEO OF OBAMAS DOING THE TANGO] That's the President doing the tango. The President of the united States doing the tango. David Gergen, not badly, I should say. David Gergen, though, as far as the image goes in the midst of terror fears after Brussels, is this the image the White House wants to send? 

DAVID GERGEN: Well, to be fair, the President has a belief that restraint is the best thing he can do. He does not want to seem like he’s rushed into anything. You know, that somehow he gets all shaken up and so, he wants to hold back. I happen to disagree with that, especially and — I think people now after all the attacks, we've had an attack a day around the world for the last 12 days, but after San Bernardino and Paris and Brussels and Ankara and Istanbul, people are looking for more forceful action to actually drive back ISIS and right now, we're not winning again ISIS. We have reduced the amount of territory in Syria and Iraq but they’ve expanded elsewhere. We learned now through the Associated Press they trained up 400 fighters to go through Europe. Under those circumstances, I must tell you. I would tell the President when you open your speech in Cuba to the Cuban speech and in the 38-minute speech, you only gave 50 seconds to Brussels, you really have underplayed it. You’ve sort of brushed it off. When you go to a baseball game, it looks a little frivolous. When you’re dancing like that. I — I even think the hard call, he should have thought about coming back and gathering — people are looking for leadership here. I thinks that's a critical issue for him. Restraint does not equal leadership when you’re under attack like this. 

BERMAN: We haven’t confirmed the exact detail of by the way of 100 — 400 fighters going to Europe right now, but the idea that they’re sending fighters is something we have reported. Jeffrey, go ahead. 

JEFFREY LORD: By chance, just the other day, right before the Brussels attack, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair gave an interview to the BBC and he was talking about this very issue and he said that when people are forced to choose between what they see as — eh — liberalism that was flexible and not assertive, versus a hard line — position that they inevitably, when faced with terror, will go straight to the hard liners. I really think that's what you're seeing. He said this before all this transpired, but I think he was right about it. 

BERMAN: Ana, I have to give you the last word right now and you know, 15 seconds or less. The President dancing the tango. Your thoughts? 

ANA NAVARRO: I think the entire thing is horrible. It reminded me of when he went golfing right after James Foley's head was cut off. It's inexcusable when the entire world is standing in solidarity with Brussels, is in shock, is in grief, the President of the United States is in Cuba sitting next to a dictator who has been in power for 56 years who has ordered the shootdown of American citizens, who has been anti-American for 56 years. Eating peanuts and going to the baseball game like if he was Walt Disney. It's not Walt Disney and it's a day of grief for the entire world. I think President Obama knows full well that optics matter, but he chose his legacy over optics and it was a shameful, shameful disappointing moment for President Obama. I was disappointed. I was not surprised. 

Curtis Houck
Curtis Houck
Curtis Houck is the Managing Editor of NewsBusters for the Media Research Center