If the president were serious about how the United States is perceived in the world, he would not have handled the scandals involving spying on the press, and spying on citizens the way he has mishandled it all. There is so much down side - not for the president, but for the country - to not taking control of this situation. In the eyes of the world, it's all lies.
I don't mean taking control politically. That seems to be the path the president is taking. He is busy blaming Bush, arguing that it has helped foil terror plots, and that he welcomes the debate over security vs. liberty - as if he can't wait for Bush's terrible policies to finally be put to rest. He is trotting out obscure people to make statements and take questions so as to disassociate his own face with these scandals, and to spread the image of accountability as far and wide as possible. Those are the actions of a self-serving politician. What would a real leader do?
The first thing a real leader would do is, to borrow the vernacular, recognize.
A real leader would recognize the issue. The issue is multifaceted. First of all there is the foreign impression this creates. There are so many people in this world who despise the United States, who truly believe that all of the talk from America about liberty, and virtue and human rights is just talk. This despite the Obama apology tour. And with these scandals coming out one after another, their suspicions about the United States, in their minds are confirmed. Pravda, People's Daily and the Islamic Republic News Agency have enough from these scandals and the ensuing non-answers to last their propaganda mills for years. The United States is suffering immeasurable PR damage and it needs to be stopped.
Domestically, the damage is even greater. If the government does not believe in its own Constitution, then the country is not what it claims to represent. Why should citizens believe in a government that does not believe in its own rule of law? How is that different from a Ghaddafi government in Libya? The covenant between the American government and its citizens has been broken - by the government. Why should the government then be respected or kept, by the people of America? What nation is left to believe in? THAT is scary.
No fourth amendment -> no Constitution -> no country.
Having recognized the significance of the situation, a leader, a real leader, would repudiate a lot. He would level set on what the Constitution means to the country and to him personally. He would testify as to his believe in the Constitution and he would repudiate any wrong-doing on the part of the government. He would the agree that as much as possible must be brought forth with respect to how the government is dealing with it's own citizens so that the truth is known and any errors in judgement and any . He would differentiate between what the government will do with foreign threats and operatives (yes, spies are still necessary) and what protections it will ensure are afforded to the people of America. He will delineate how those liberties will be protected.
He will repudiate any foreign accusations of American hypocrisy by saying that one brief period of errors is not a pattern unlike what has happened in Russia or China or Iran or Syria (for example).
That's what a real leader would do, not hide, not cover his own ass or compound lies with more lies. A real leader does not spout slogans and platitudes - a real leader leads, and fixes problems. Now if only America had a real leader.