Deputy Secretary of State Blinken: Obama 'Sees Himself in Part As a Circuit Breaker'

By Susan Jones | September 23, 2016 | 11:01am EDT
President Barack Obama leaves the podiium after speaking about the bombings in New Jersey and Manhattan and the stabbing attack in Minnesota, Monday, Sept. 19, 2016, at the Lotte New York Palace Hotel in New York. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

( - Instead of reacting to every crisis as soon as it happens, President Obama likes to think things through, Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken told PBS on Thursday.

"You know, I think the president sees himself in part as a circuit breaker, in the sense that there's this huge pressure every day when you are in government dealing with these problems to just do something, to react.

"And his approach has been to say, wait a minute, let's take a step back. Let's understand what's happening. Let's think through the response and let's work it that way. Not to just be reflexive and reactive.

"And sometimes in the short term that can cause a political cost, but it also feeds into those who say you're not acting decisively. But you have to marry wisdom to strength, and that's what we tried to do."

On Thursday, following two nights of violence in Charlotte, N.C., President Obama left it to his spokesman to explain his thoughts on the situation:

"I know the president yesterday (Wednesday) had the opportunity to talk to both the mayor of Charlotte and the mayor of Tulsa, two communities that are confronting these issues in a real and tangible way right now," spokesman Josh Earnest said. (Police officers in both of those cities shot and killed black men without provocation or justification, angry protesters believe.)

"I can tell you that the president this afternoon spoke to Governor McCrory from North Carolina to get an additional update about the response to the situation in Charlotte as well. So the president is certainly aware of what's happening and has been in close touch with local officials," Earnest said.

"In those conversations, the president has offered his condolences to communities that are mourning the loss of loved ones. The president has also articulated his administration's support for communities that are grappling with these difficult questions.

"The president also hopes that the rights of peaceful protesters will be protected, but he also believes that it should be made clear that the protests must remain peaceful. And that they should not be used as an excuse to engage in vandalism or violence. That only serves to distract from the issues that should be the subject of careful public scrutiny."

Obama's "circuit-breaker" approach also was on display earlier this week when he waited two days to speak publically about Saturday's terror attacks in Minnesota, New York, and New Jersey.

On Monday, Josh Earnest went on various morning news shows to say that Obama was "receiving updates on the situation" and probably would have an "opportunity" to talk about the attacks later in the day.

The president finally went before the cameras late Monday morning, telling Americans that "counterterrorism and law enforcement professionals at every level, federal state and local, are working together around the clock to prevent attacks and to keep us safe."

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