Barack Obama knows an opportunity when he sees one. It puzzled me when his highly anticipated “healing speech” fell flat on a number of fronts. Even worse, the president couldn’t stay away from his favorite rhetorical vehicles and his agenda.
The speech seemed fine, albeit unremarkable, at the get go.
Usually, a speaker kicks off with a joke to relax the crowd. Obama’s Stevie Wonder/Michelle/Chief Brown joke seemed more about relaxing himself. Decide for yourself if it was appropriate for the situation.
But there were the usual and appropriate things in Obama’s speech about police officers killed in the line of duty. The emotional references to family, service, and selflessness we’ve heard at all too many police funerals.
None of this was terrible, and I thought the president might get it. Does he finally get there are times to stay away from politics. Does he get this wasn’t the moment to scold and lecture America? This was the moment to honor five dead cops who were killed doing their jobs.
About a quarter of the way through the speech the president could no longer stifle his instinct to use any tragedy, any event, anything to push his narrative du jour.
“And then around nine o’clock, the gunfire came. Another community torn apart; more hearts broken; more questions about what caused and what might prevent another such tragedy.”
– Barack Obama; July 12, 2016
I knew the speech had turned.
And then soon after, this little gem:
“We turn on the TV or surf the Internet, and we can watch positions harden and lines drawn and people retreat to their respective corners, and politicians calculate how to grab attention or avoid the fallout. We see all this, and it’s hard not to think sometimes that the center won’t hold and that things might get worse.”
The president fails to mention that many of the offending opiners, and some of the most bombastic, are put out there by the White House.
And for at least the second time Obama used the, “I’m here to insist that we are not as divided as we seem” line. An odd thing to say at a memorial for five slain officers. How much more divided do we have to be?
But Barack was just warming up. He was about to employ one of his favorite tactics: “Because I said so.”
“As a society, we choose to under-invest in decent schools.”
As if there can ever be enough money for schools. Any politician who doesn’t agree loses.
“We allow poverty to fester so that entire neighborhoods offer no prospect for gainful employment.”
Fact: While the military continues to take the lion’s share of our budget, we spend more than $62 billion on housing and community.
“We refuse to fund drug treatment and mental health programs.”
Fact: We spend $66 billion on Medicare and health.
It’s easy to say we need to do more. But who’s been president for nearly eight years? “The buck stops here.” No?
Still, up until this point it was the president’s usual speech. Then came this doozy:
“We flood communities with so many guns that it is easier for a teenager to buy a Glock than to get his hands on a computer or even a book.”
My stomach sank and my ass liked to bite the seat. The Internet exploded into ridicule. As fact as you can hit send, people like Sean Davis of “The Federalist” were on the president’s case.
Social media became a cornucopia of call-out.
Why the hell did Barack Obama go there?
Statements like that may sound and feel good to the president’s most rabid supporters, but even the rational faithful know it hurts the chances of having a real dialogue about the issue anytime soon.
“Don’t do stupid shit,” was, at one time, the motto of this White House.
I’ll let that one sit there.
I think the president had to bring up race. I know many were upset with that, but it’s impossible to unravel what happened in Dallas from race.
Maybe the surprise of the day, for me, came from none other than former president George W. Bush.
While still not no orator, Bush’s words felt real.
“At times, it seems like the forces pulling us apart are stronger than the forces binding us together. Argument turns too easily into animosity. Disagreement escalates too quickly into dehumanization. Too often we judge other groups by their worst examples, while judging ourselves by our best intentions. And this has strained our bonds of understanding and common purpose.”
– W; July 12, 2016
And like all things real and true, his words left me a little enlightened, and a little ashamed.