During Meet the Press on Sunday, August 23, 2015, one commentator said, “We’ve already had a woman President – Barack Obama.” He followed up by calling the President “soft.” Not only am I outraged because the expression is vile in every possible way but because the smear campaign again this President continues unabated amidst reports that his popularity is down – omitting the fact that the Republican party has worked tirelessly since November 7, 2008 to defame and revile Obama’s administration. They do not respect.
If you want to talk cowardice, where are the legislators of any courage who will stand up and say enough? Demeaning the President of the United States without cause hurts all Americans. There is an old expression among black women which says, “If you can’t respect me, at least respect the dress,” meaning, respect me as a woman.” That’s a request for basic respect. Why can’t one United States Senator or Representative understand that disparaging the office of the President affects all future Presidents? The Executive Branch, not the Legislative or Judicial, is the voice of the nation on the international stage.
Obama is not the worst President ever. Did his critics forget Nixon’s disregard for the rule of law, Clinton’s lechery or George W. Bush’s hubris that led to the death of thousands of Americans and hundreds of thousands in Iraq and Afghanistan? How could a Commander in Chief who forestalled our economic meltdown, led the recovery of two major industries – financial and automotive, ended an unjust war in Iraq whose perpetrators – Bush, Cheney, Rice and Rumsfeld – have walked away scott-free, and who killed Osama Bin Laden we deemed terrible?
Even Cornel West, our most sacred black intellectual, has erred in his criticism of Obama. West, whom I admire deeply, failed to recognize that Obama is everyone’s President; and he, being the first black President, will never enjoy the luxury of speaking up for black people without bounds until he leaves office. Any black person, intellectual or non-scholar, who believes Obama can rail against our national shame as Dr. King did is naïve. While, I do not agree with Michael Eric Dyson and others that West is passé, I do say, West is wrong in demanding that Barack Obama meet so stringent a test. Obama cannot end poverty unless it is the will of the public.
If there is a lack of courage, it is in those majority legislators who play games with the lives of American citizens in the name of party rhetoric. They are doing so now in opposing the Iran nuclear deal which is the best alternative to a possible war. His critics wrongly opposed the Affordable Healthcare Act which has helped millions. They also opposed the President’s change of policy with Cuba after nearly sixty years of a failed embargo that yielded nothing and hurt the Cuban populous. Finally, let’s not omit racism. Many of the President’s critics still toss and turn at night over the idea of a black man and woman in that White House which they want to “take back.”
One thing is certain, the criticism lacks merit. Does winning as a partisan mean more for either party than protecting the legacy of the Presidency? Did Obama not represent all Americans well in Charleston, South Carolina? Where is his critics’ courage to speak against the racism of “southern heritage?” Where is their courage when it comes to sensible gun legislation? They support the amassing of wealth among a pampered few. They don’t have the character to question Barack Obama
Dr. Jeffrey Dean Swain is Dean of Campus Ministry at Florida Memorial University and an author of six works on the African diaspora.