Tuesday, August 06, 2019

Obama Being Obama

Name names. Three top Washington Post reporters write

Former president Barack Obama issued a forceful call Monday for the nation to “soundly reject language coming out of the mouths of any of our leaders that feeds a climate of fear and hatred or normalizes racist sentiments.”

In a statement posted to his Twitter and Facebook accounts, Obama warned that such language has been at the root of most human tragedy, from slavery to the Holocaust to Rwandan genocide.

Although Obama never mentioned Trump by name, the statement amounted to a tacit rebuke of the president by a predecessor who has largely kept himself out of the public eye since leaving the White House.

Barack Obama, the last Democrat elected president, beloved by Democrats, pop culture elites, and mainstream media personalities everywhere, can do no better than a "tacit" rebuke?

He can, but he won't. In his defense, the former President did remark "no other developed nation tolerates the levels of gun violence that we do" and gave a shout-out for "tougher gun laws."

But then he went wobbly,  suggesting the need to prevent "every deranged individual from getting a weapon," thereby subtly adopting the GOP myth that mass shootings are conducted by deranged, or mentally ill, individuals. Obama noted "while the motivations behind these shootings may not yet be fully known," he should have stopped there. Instead, he continued

there are indications that the El Paso shooting followed a dangerous trend: troubled individuals who embrace racist ideologies and see themselves obligated to act violently to preserve white supremacy.

Nonetheless, there was mass homicide this past weekend also in Dayton or, as the candidate touted as the Democrat most likely to defeat President Trump put it, "Michigan."  While the motivation behind that crime is still unknown, there is no evidence yet that Connor Betts is a white supremacist. Although he may still be found to have embraced a racist ideology 
It got worse as Obama continued

But just as important, all of us have to send a clarion call and behave with the values of tolerance and diversity that should be the hallmark of our democracy. We should soundly reject language coming out of the mouths of any of our leaders that feeds a climate of fear and hatred or normalizes racist sentiments....

Some of "us" have done so; including most prominent Democratic politicians, a few Republican politicians, journalists and others.   Add "soundly reject language coming out of the mouths of any of our leaders that feeds a climate of fear and hatred or normalizes racist sentiments," and virtually all but the Republicans have done so.

It's not "we," Mr. ex-President. It's rejected by Republicans, party officials, elected officials, and the 80-90% of Republicans who approve of the President the reprehensible language. The tip-off in Obama's statement should have been the "any of our leaders," which effectively removes particular accountability from the incumbent. If he intended to do otherwise, the unusually careful and eloquent former President would have replaced "of any of our leaders" with "of our leaders."

But even that does not get to the crux of President Obama's weak critique. Until November 3, 2020, it will not be the primary responsibility, nor the responsibility primarily, of the general electorate (even of the Republican rank-and-file) to reject soundly hateful or racist sentiments. It is the responsibility of the people who hold power.

It was a responsibility Obama characteristically shirked as President during his "make me do it" presidency. Completely in character, he now puts the onus on "the overwhelming majority of Americans of good will, of every race and faith and political party." But some already have responded, and some of them have been bold enough to utter the two words Barack Obama rarely does: "Donald Trump."

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