Jewish World Review August 19, 2010 9 Elul, 5770
Please, No More Teachable Moments
By Victor Davis Hanson
The president of
So why weigh in on hot-button issues that can only polarize people without solving anything?
Nonetheless, the president also jumped into that acrimony -- well before the law went into effect. Obama and his attorney general alleged that Arizonans were promoting stereotyping, even though police were forbidden to question the immigration status of those who had not come into prior contact with law enforcement.
Most recently, Obama pontificated about the proposed mosque next to Ground Zero in lower
No matter: The president instead lectured his mostly Muslim audience that America respects the rights of all religions -- again, not the issue in question. A day later, in embarrassment, he backtracked a bit.
Where to start with all these teachable moments?
All these controversies involve issues addressed at the state and local level, with presidential action unnecessary. In such contentious matters, why intervene when Obama cannot do much other than polarize millions?
We have learned that President Obama has a bad habit of impugning the motives of those with whom he disagrees. In the Gates case, he rushed to condemn Crowley and the police. Arizonans were not to be seen as desperate citizens trying to enforce federal law, but instead derided as bigots who harass minorities when they go out to get ice cream. And in the mosque case, the president disingenuously implied that opponents of a Ground Zero mosque wanted to deny the legal right of Muslims to build religious centers.
Note that all three issues poll badly for the president, and belie his former image as a conciliator and healer.
Again, why does Obama go off message to sermonize about these seemingly minor things that so energize his opposition and make life difficult for his fellow Democrats?
First, off-the-cuff pontificating on extraneous issues is a lot easier than dealing with a bad economy, two wars and heightening tensions abroad. Sermonizing is a lot different than rounding up votes in
Second, Obama has spent most of his life around academics, lawyers, journalists and organizers. That insular culture tends to pontificate and lecture others far more than do action-oriented business people, soldiers, doctors and farmers -- the doers who are few and far between in this administration.
Third, as an
Obama should remember that successful presidents build bridges to solve national and international problems. They leave polarizing local controversies to divisive community organizers and partisan activists.
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Victor Davis Hanson, a classicist and military historian, is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and a recipient of the 2007 National Humanities Medal. Comment by clicking here.
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