On the most deadly day in Washington since Sept. 11, 2001, with the capital reeling over the sadly familiar scene of a mass shooting by a madman, the chief executive stepped to the microphones and captured the heartbreak.
It wasn't the chief executive of the nation. It was Dr. Janis Orlowski, the chief operating officer of MedStar Washington Hospital Center, where three of those injured were being treated.
"There's something evil in our society that we as Americans have to work to try and eradicate," she said, her voice stoic but laced with emotion. On the day when she announced only hours earlier that she had submitted her resignation to take another job, she continued: "There's something wrong here when we have these multiple shootings, these multiple injuries. There is something wrong, and the only thing that I can say is we have to work together to get rid of it. I would like you to put my trauma center out of business. I really would. I would like to not be an expert on gunshots."
Calling it "a challenge to all of us," she concluded: "This is not America."
President Barack Obama also gave a speech Monday, talking at the White House while the drama unfolded at the supposedly secure Navy Yard nearby. He could have posted his original remarks on the White House website and replaced them with a cri de coeur on gun control, or comfort for the shaken city. The 12 who died were, after all, under his aegis as workers in a federal building.
But, jarringly, the president went ahead with his political attack, briefly addressing the slaughter before moving on to jab Republicans over the corporate tax rate and resistance to Obamacare.
Just as with the address to the nation on Syria last week, the president went ahead with a speech overtaken by events. It was out of joint, given that the Senate was put into lockdown and the Washington Nationals delayed a night game against the Atlanta Braves, noting on its website, "Postponed: Tragedy."
The man who connected so electrically and facilely in 2008, causing Americans to overlook his thin r?um? cannot seem to connect anymore.
With a shrinking circle of trust inside the White House, Obama is having trouble establishing trust outside with once reliable factions: grass-roots Democrats and liberals in Congress.
As Peter Baker wrote in the New York Times, the president is finding himself increasingly "frustrated" by the defiance of Democrats who are despairing of his passive, reactive leadership.
Sen. Jon Tester, a Democrat from Montana on the banking committee, told Jonathan Martin of
Politico in February, after he scraped through to a second term, that the president was not engaged with the Hill, that he had not met with Obama at the White House since 2010, and that he was sorely missing aides like Rahm Emanuel, who tirelessly worked and stroked Democrats in Congress. Tester was one of three Democrats who spurned the president on his favorite to run the Federal Reserve, Larry Summers. The White House didn't call Tester until Friday, when it was too late; Summers was allowed to twist in the wind, like Susan Rice before him.
Top Democrats who used to consider Obama one cool cat now muse that he's "one weird cat," as one big shot put it.