We know the movie genre. The good natured hero endures endless taunts and jibes from the loons and goons at the bar. He remains impassive, even oblivious as the insults rain down. The more intrepid tormentors may toss an ashtray or splash a drink in his face….and then it happens……….the hero has had enough and he takes on all comers, beating into submission those who don’t beat a hasty retreat.
During the past two and a half years Barack Obama has been the object of a constant deluge of scorn, disrespect and outrageous rhetoric. He has been labeled a communist, a socialist, a fascist and the anti-Christ. There have been outrageous (and potentially dangerous) allusions to “the blood of tyrants (guess who?) watering the tree of liberty” and even his citizenship has been questioned.
Through it all President Obama has maintained his seemingly eternal cool. He did deliver a pretty humorous backhand to Donald Trump, but even attacks on his wife and his two daughters have barely gotten a rise out of him. But something must have clicked during the past few weeks because he is now on the offensive.
While touring the country President Obama derided Rodeo Rick Perry as the governor of a state that is “on fire while he refuses to believe in global warming”. Ouch!
He appeared at the annual Congressional Black Caucus dinner and exhorted the crowd to “stop whining” and to “put on their marching shoes”. One can imagine Travis Smiley and Cornel West wincing as President Obama assumed the mantle of leadership that has not always been so evident.
He has asked crowds to look at the current roster of Republican presidential candidates. And he commiserated with Republicans who have such an array of poor choices. He also took time to criticize the debate crowds who cheered the prospect of uninsured Americans dying and who booed a gay American soldier who was serving in Iraq.
On that last item, it should be noted that on three separate occasions the nine Republican presidential candidates have had an opportunity to demonstrate compassion, intelligence and an adult mentality. At recent debates the crowd cheered when Rodeo Rick Perry bragged about having presided over 243 (now 244) executions in the state of Texas. Where was the Republican who might caution against celebrating the death of another human being? Not one of the Noble Nine uttered a word.
On another occasion Congressman Ron Paul was asked whether he believed that an uninsured American should be allowed to die in the emergency room. Before he could answer G.O.Tea Party zealots loudly cheered the notion. Neither Congressman Paul nor any of the other candidates would say a word about compassion and the need for a civilized society to find a way to take care of men, women and children in distress.
And last week, a U.S. soldier on active duty in Iraq asked a question regarding gays in the military via video conference during another G.O.Tea Party crazyfest. He was roundly booed by the audience and not a single member of the Noble Nine – all of whom proclaim to be patriotic Americans – would take the audience to task for dishonoring a man who was risking his life in the belief that he was protecting the rights and liberties of the braying mob. No profiles in courage in that bunch.
And so it seems that President Obama is not going to play rope-a-dope anymore. It might seem presidential to be above the fray, but the fray is too loud and too much a part of the daily national and international discourse. When the Noble Nine continue to repeat untruths it is important for supporters of the president to speak up. But it is also well past the time for the president himself to speak up.
It is clear that the entire timetable for presidential politics has changed. No sitting president can employ a Rose Garden strategy, staying in the White House and making a few speeches in the months just before the election. The Republicans have been running against Barack Obama since January 21, 2009 – the goal has been to make him a one-term president regardless of anything he might have achieved.
This mindless negativity has impaired the federal government and the United States at every turn. The debt ceiling debacle is just one example, the recent near disaster regarding the funding of the Federal Emergency Management Administration is yet another. The G.O.Tea Party has adopted a destructive strategy that includes blaming all consequent suffering on Barack Obama.
It has been time to take the gloves off for a long time. Now that Barack Obama has done so, things should get interesting.