01:40 - Source: CNN
White House: Obama is hard at work

Story highlights

President Obama is holding a growing number of photo-ops as the administration is eager to show him hard at work

Presidents often use wartime photo-ops

Photographers took pictures of Obama huddling with health advisers on Monday

Washington CNN  — 

He may not be zipping into a flight suit on the deck of an aircraft carrier, but President Barack Obama is embracing the set pieces of a commander at war weeks into his campaign against Islamic terrorists in Syria and Iraq.

His advisers have similarly been keen to demonstrate his grasp of the global Ebola crisis, orchestrating two photo-ops in 24 hours — on a Sunday and a federal holiday — that showed Obama consulting with health officials about the outbreak.

Neither instance featured any remarks from the president himself, or the chance to ask him questions. But as questions mount about the government’s response to a range of challenges, the pictures underscore the importance the White House now places on appearing to have a grasp on the crises it’s confronting.

On Tuesday, Obama confers with top commanders and allied defense chiefs outside Washington at Joint Base Andrews — a Navy and Air Force installation that’s more familiar to Obama as the seconds-long layover before jetting off on Air Force One or the site of weekend golf.

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Last week he made a rare trip across the Potomac to convene meetings with his top military brass at the Pentagon, a session he admitted would take place at the White House in calmer times.

“Now was a good time for me to come over to the Pentagon and have an opportunity to hear from our top military about the work that they’re doing,” he said on Wednesday.

And last month Obama flew to Tampa for an update on the war he’s waging against ISIS at U.S. Central Command, which has been executing his plan to “degrade and ultimately destroy” the terror group.

The wartime photo-op is a tool familiar to presidents going back decades: Think of the “Mission Accomplished” banner hanging behind former President George W. Bush on the USS Abraham Lincoln in 2003 as he declared an end to major combat operations in Iraq, 8½ years and thousands of casualties before the war ended.

That episode — which Bush later said he regretted and which all future presidents will likely use as a model to avoid — is a far cry from the moments the White House is crafting for Obama, which have come as the President receives updates and advice from top commanders.

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So, too, have the President’s aides been careful to demonstrate their grasp on the unfolding Ebola crisis, orchestrating a Sunday photograph — shot through the Oval Office window — of Obama discussing the latest Ebola case in Dallas with his Health and Human Services secretary.

On Monday, with most of the White House darkened for the Columbus Day holiday, photographers were permitted to capture Obama meeting with top health officials to further hash out what went wrong in Dallas, where a nurse who was caring for a West African patient with Ebola contracted the virus herself.

For a president who has claimed to be uninterested in “photo-ops,” the rash of appearances seem to repudiate oft-cited criticism that Obama remains too detached — a line Republicans repeated on Sunday.

“I would say that we don’t know exactly who’s in charge,” Sen. John McCain said of the Ebola outbreak on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

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