Monday, May 18, 2009

Hollow Words at Notre Dame

President Obama, addressing the abortion issue during his commencement speech at Notre Dame:

Now, understand -- understand, Class of 2009, I do not suggest that the debate surrounding abortion can or should go away. Because no matter how much we may want to fudge it -- indeed, while we know that the views of most Americans on the subject are complex and even contradictory -- the fact is that at some level, the views of the two camps are irreconcilable.

Each side will continue to make its case to the public with passion and conviction. But surely we can do so without reducing those with differing views to caricature.

Open hearts. Open minds. Fair-minded words.
If I had heard this back in November, or December, or January, I would have taken this at face value. I would have given President Obama credit, and even the benefit of the doubt. Because even with this telling remark during the campaign about those who disagreed with his views clinging bitterly to their guns and their religion, he seemed to be making a real effort in the transition to live up to his promise of changing the tone, of being the president of all Americans.

Hearing this now, the words just ring hollow.

In the last few months, he's reduced to a caricature those in Congress who disagree with his stimulus package and economic policies. They're simply obstructionists, after all. They're nothing more than followers of Rush Limbaugh. They don't hold other ideas or support alternative policies with passion and conviction, they just want to do nothing.

In lifting the ban on government funding for embryonic stem cell research, he acknowledged this was a difficult moral and ethical issue with good people on both sides, then immediately caricatured all those good people on the other side as simply being opposed to "sound science."

The average citizens protesting his continuing bailouts and historic new levels of federal debt aren't expressing honestly held convictions and concern, either. They're just waving teabags around on that network that doesn't like him much. They're just not willing to have a "serious conversation," not like he is.

After finding out the hard way that issues like Guantanamo Bay, wiretapping, indefinite detentions, military tribunals, releasing photos of detainee abuse, withdrawing from Iraq, and what to do about Afghanistan and Pakistan are more complicated and murky than his campaign claims and grandstanding once in office would suggest, one might think he could have at least a word of understanding for those in the previous administration, who so often faced a choice between something bad and something worse. Instead, he opens the door to prosecuting lawyers for writing legal opinions he disagrees with -- even as he quietly retains FISA, indefinite detentions, the Patriot Act, military tribunals, and so many other Bush administration policies.

But then why should I be surprised by the Obama administration caricaturing its opponents, especially when Senior Advisor David Axelrod caricatures Miss California as being one of the final three choices for the Obama family dog. This may be the first time in my political junkie's memory that agreeing with a president's position -- in this case, gay marriage -- still gets you reduced to a caricature.

Open hearts. Open minds. Fair-minded words.

You know, the Wanda Sykes approach...

(h/t: DRJ at Patterico)