‘R-E-S-P-E-C-T,” the song goes.
It is easy enough to spell, but for some vocal critics of President Barack Obama, it seems exceedingly hard to do.
As the president moves toward the land of the lame ducks, his political enemies are calling for blood. That’s no shocker at this stage of a presidency. In this case, the cuts go deeper.
For some, it is not enough to disagree. Some high-status public figures seem determined to demean, denigrate and ridicule the president of the United States.
On June 12 the Speaker of the U.S. House stepped to a podium and insulted Obama for his handling of the ongoing crisis in Iraq.
“It’s not like we haven’t seen over the last five or six months these terrorists moving in, taking control of western Iraq,” U.S. Rep. John Boehner said at a press conference. He added, in his trademark, obdurate tone: “And what’s the president doing? Taking a nap!”
Last week, U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk pronounced that Obama has fallen short in his dealings with Iran, reported CBS2 Chicago. “I’m very worried that the president doesn’t appear to be up to this job, of protecting the United States,” he said.
The disrespect comes in words, tone and attitude. He’s “taking a nap.” He’s “not up to this job.” They refer to the president as though he were a wayward child.
It’s nothing new. Obama supporters, especially African-Americans, have fumed over the insults for years. Oprah Winfrey recently suggested it has something to do with his race. “There’s no question about that,” she said.
Last week, former Vice President Dick Cheney leveled a blistering attack on the president’s foreign policy in a Wall Street Journal op-ed. “Rarely has a U.S. president been so wrong about so much at the expense of so many,” Cheney wrote. Obama cares more about his golf game than the raging conflict in Iraq, Cheney asserted.
(I could give you a few thousand words on Cheney’s track record of mistakes, but that would be digressing).
Some critics refuse to address the president by his title, instead sneering lowly pronouns, like “he” and “him.” On the talk shows, via the blogosphere, even on the floor of Congress, they ridicule him in personal, demeaning ways.
In 2009, President Obama was speaking on immigration reform before a joint session of Congress. “You lie!” U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson of South Carolina shouted from his seat.
Others, from Donald Trump to Newt Gingrich, have insisted that the president is some kind of alien, a “foreigner,” demanding he produce his birth certificate to “prove” he is an American.
I know how it is. In today’s hyper-partisan USA, Launching tirades at political enemies provides cheap, red meat for the base.
Still, we are talking about the president of the United States, a man who, while imperfect, is very much a grown-up, possesses high intelligence and has many talents. In two national elections, American voters definitively entrusted that man with the job.
That man represents the presidency, the most powerful office in the world. Politicians who publicly disrespect the man who holds that office derogate their own profession.
The disrespect and insults give license to the world’s despots to, in turn, disrespect him, his position, and us.
In last week’s column, Martin R. Castro, chairperson of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, criticized GOP gubernatorial nominee Bruce Rauner. Castro was expressing his personal opinion, not speaking for the commission.