It’s probably petty, I admit it.
In President Obama’s riveting interview on “60 Minutes,” he said that watching the SEALs storm Osama bin Laden’s lair and ultimately kill him was the second most tense time he ever experienced (the first was when his daughter Sasha was thought to have meningitis). His life and death decision to order the raid resulted in the execution of the worst mass murderer on the planet.
And yet, while I was engrossed in hearing his description of and feelings about the operation, I couldn’t help being put off by all of the “ahs” in his answers.
“Ah” is habit that the President has regularly exhibited in his presentations and interviews. Because he’s usually such a competent and articulate speaker, he can almost get away with it. But not totally. “Ahs,” “ums” and other fillers lower presenters’ credibility, even Obama’s. People using them seem hesitant and unsure of themselves. A silent pause, on the other hand, project confidence and control.
Now on to what Obama did right. First, his overall tone was pitch perfect. No gloating, no machismo, but instead honest, straightforward explanations, admitting real human emotions. Even though Steve Kroft wasn’t particularly hard on the President, he did set a a couple of traps.
One was trying to put words in Obama’s mouth and get him to repeat negative language saying he didn’t trust Pakistan:
KROFT: You didn’t tell anybody in the Pakistani government or the military…or their intelligence community?
KROFT: Because you didn’t trust them?
OBAMA: As I said, I didn’t tell most people here in the White House. I didn’t tell my own family. It was that important for us to maintain operational security.
KROFT: But you were carrying out this operation in Pakistan.
KROFT: You didn’t trust ‘em?
OBAMA: If I’m not revealing to some of my closest aides what we’re doing, then I sure as heck am not going to be revealing it to folks who I don’t know.
Obama’s last answer in the interview was the best of all, and perfectly summarized the event: “As nervous as I was about this whole process, the one thing I didn’t lose sleep over was the possibility of taking bin Laden out. Justice was done. And I think that anyone who would question that the perpetrator of mass murder on American soil didn’t deserve what he got needs to have their head examined.”