Friday, October 15, 2010

The President divides a nation

From the 18 October 2010 Greater Niagara Newspapers

By Bob Confer

President Obama has been on the road a lot over the past few weeks. He’s not out and about trying to reassure Americans about the future of our economy. Nor is he trying to calm our nation’s concerns over the ongoing Afghan occupation or the terror thereat that has enveloped Europe. Instead, he’s stumping for his Democratic brethren, trying to drum up support – financially and in the voting booth – for their efforts to keep control of the House and Senate in the November elections. He has been a cash cow, raking in millions for the Democrats.

Doing so while in office is not new to the presidency. Take our previous president for example: In just one 2006 fundraising event alone George W Bush brought in $23 million for the GOP. Millions more were had from his cross-country road trips. Many presidents of the past have campaigned for their party and it has been almost routine since the 1800s when presidents slowly devolved from being true statesmen to political operatives.

But, as the old adage goes, two wrongs do not make a right. From a purely philosophical standpoint, sitting presidents should not campaign for their parties.

The President of the United States is a unique position in federal rule. Like the role of governor at the state level, he is not supposed to, like a legislator would, represent a defined, ideologically-limited and geographically-limited constituency. As an executive his sphere of influence is larger and his constituency is all-inclusive. Whereas governors need to look out for the best interests of all residents of their state, the president is supposed to be concerned with the best interests of all Americans. The president is supposed to bridge the gap between a divided America. He is not to be a bridge burner who divides us even more.

In his struggles to save his party, Obama has done the latter like others before him. Not a day goes by that there isn’t a newsy sound bite where he derides the intelligence and ideals of the Republicans, blaming them for all that ails us. His tone is typically nasty, divisive and arrogant. His predecessor used a different style, combining humor with a matter-of-fact indifference, bordering on total ignorance, to opposing views.

When our de facto leader so openly and aggressively discounts the validity and beliefs of the opposing party he is in essence doing the same for half of the nation. Depending on what polls one looks at, our nation is almost equally split between the Right and Left, so the partisan bickering and name calling of one who should be above such a fray puts millions of Americans in the crosshairs. How can one respect a president when he himself does not respect his people?

Presidents should be held to a higher standard. The executive branch should be leading by example as it once did. Think back to some of the darkest days of our history. Amidst world wars and civil wars and depressions and economic slowdowns, previous generations could count on the president to be a calming force who gave Americans hope and looked past differences to orchestrate a combined effort by all parties and all people to affect positive change that took into consideration the wants and needs of all citizens.

Things are so markedly different nowadays. Even though we are in some dark times – this young century has been fraught with terror attacks, wars, and economic crises – our two leaders chose to divide us rather than bring us together to overcome a shared adversity. More so than most men before them, Bush and Obama are guilty of fracturing a nation. You cannot find two successive presidencies as hotly controversial and stubbornly partisan as theirs. Such behavior from the top is not healthy for America: Sadly, it too often seems we are only the “States of America”…the “United” bit was thrown out long ago.

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