As crises in Japan and Libya worsened, President Obama disappointed many observers by taking a break to fill out his NCAA basketball tournament bracket. Sportswriters griped at Obama's lack of daring — he reportedly picked all four No. 1 seeds to make the Final Four — while conservative bloggers leveled a more serious charge: How could Obama occupy himself with such frivolous diversions, they demanded, while international disasters are unfolding? (Watch Obama discuss this year's NCAA bracket)
What a disgrace: Japan faces what may be an "unprecedented crisis," says John Podhoretz in Commentary. "Saudi Arabia is all but colonizing Bahrain. Gadhafi is close to retaking Libya, with bloodbath to follow." And Obama is worried about college basketball? He's showing a "defiant unwillingness" to take the world's multiple crises seriously and "act as a world leader."
"Obama's presidency hangs by a thread"
Talk about an overreaction: Okay, the "optics" aren't good for Obama, says James Joyner at Outside the Beltway. But this criticism takes "the leap into absurdity." Obama is doing "more-or-less the right thing in the Middle East," and he can't do anything more to fix "the disasters befalling Japan." Presidents make huge decisions every day — it's ridiculous to say they "should never do anything that smacks of frivolity" if there's something important going on.
"Obama fills out his bracket while world collapses"
The Right will slam Obama whatever he does: This is sadly predictable, says Eric Kleefeld at Talking Points Memo. Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus tweeted that Obama's attention to basketball shows a lack of leadership. But if he ignored March Madness, conservatives would be "attacking him as an out-of-touch elitist." The criticism is automatic, only the phony offenses change.
"RNC chair: Obama puts NCAA bracket ahead of important issues"