President Obama almost seems eager for a crushing mid term defeat of his party and his comments last night surely helped his political adversaries. The President missed a prime opportunity to help defuse the growing contentious issue of the “ground zero” mosque. Instead last night’s comments on the deliberately provocative mosque showed a tone deafness to public opinion and total absence of common sense that has marked the President’s administration since day one. Obama frames the argument as one of religious freedom and tolerance, when in truth that isn’t the issue at all. The issue is “should the mosque be built in that location”, not, “can it be built on that location”. Once again the President missed an important opportunity. He could have opened a national dialog with people of all faiths, and helped to heal the wounds inflicted on this nation by the 9/11 attack. Instead he chose a divisive path that neither heals nor promotes tolerance.
Here is how Obama could have easily stuck to his ideological guns while being a positive force, helping to heal the wounds of 9/11. President Obama could have said publicly that the site should be a true interfaith project, with a place of worship for Christians, Jews, & Muslims alike. A true “multi-faith” center would have been a much more powerful example of religious tolerance to the world than the current contentious mosque. It would have also demonstrated that American Muslims can worship along side American’s of another faith, and that all Americans respect freedom of religion. What stronger message of religious tolerance and pluralism could you send?
This idea was broached by Newt Gingrinch, but that doesn’t mean that President Obama can’t co-opt it. As Clinton successfully co-opted welfare reform in the nineties, Obama could have put the force of the Presidency behind a truly beautiful ideal of religious freedom and tolerance. He chose not to, and thus continues the story of the President of missed opportunities.
Missed opportunities is the most concise description of the Obama Presidency to date. It started on his first official day in office and continues today. On day one, President Obama used his inaugural address to speak ill of his predecessor. The President missed the perfect opportunity to use his first official speech to unite a nation. Thus began a long line of missed opportunities that have divided and polarized this nation
The President campaigned on promises of bi-partisanship. When it came time to deliver on those promises, he missed the opportunity. The mainstream press downplayed the Presidential response to Republicans, which was akin to a 2 year old sticking out his tongue at the loyal opposition and a direct contradiction of his campaign promises. Instead of helping pass a bill that put Americans to work, the President signed a stimulus bill that we know hasn’t created jobs, but it has rewarded political allies. A huge missed opportunity.
The President has also missed several key opportunities to be a racial healer. For instance, President Obama failed to scold his attorney general’s grossly inappropriate remarks on race, and the nation made a mental note. When Boson police officer James Crowley was accused of racism for his response to a reported break in, Obama chose to speak before all the facts were in. Instead of acting as a racial healer, he has pandered to the race hustlers in this country and called a police officer’s actions stupid. It turned out that the police officer in question actually teaches racial sensitivity and profiling to incoming police recruits and that the alleged victim. Henry Gates, may have acted inappropriately. Obama’s reaction was not to heal, but try to make his gaffe go away as quickly as possible. This is why we were treated to the first ever “beer summit”.
While some of these missed opportunities can be seen as contrary to Obama’s political views, he still misses opportunities even when they align themselves with is stated beliefs. The President speaks passionately about school reform, yet didn’t publicly support one of the most successful reform programs in Washington DC’s history. The voucher program had a solid record of success helping minority students and parents were calling for its expansion. Instead democrats killed a program that primarily helped poor black students in DC. Another missed opportunity. For all Obama’s rhetoric about international co-operation and working together with partners, when it comes time to actually do that, he refuses aid from 13 different countries during the gulf oil spill. An opportunity to help keep the gulf clean early on in the disaster and spotlight international cooperation among nations, and Obama chose to miss the opportunity.
The one opportunity that Obama is busy capitalizing on is the opportunity to be the worst President this country has seen in modern times. Surpassing Jimmy Carter will be hard, but President Obama is well on the way. Perhaps the biggest opportunity that Obama is going to miss is that of a President that has a second term.