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Obama cannot rise above politics

Mona Charen Syndicated columnist

September 3, 2013

It’s ironic that President Obama so often carps about politics — blaming “politics as usual” or “hyperpartisanship” for everything from the lack of economic growth to joblessness to climate change — when he is the most relentlessly partisan president in recent memory. Obama is a staunch left/liberal who finds it very difficult to rise above politics and attempt to unite the country. Arguably, his very best speech, the one delivered in Tucson after the Gabby Giffords shooting, did transcend partisanship. It was an outlier.


The president inserted himself into the Trayvon Martin story in a deeply irresponsible manner. Disregarding the case’s complexities (the fact that Zimmerman was clearly in a fight, the fact that not a particle of evidence suggested racial animus on Zimmerman’s part, the fact that Zimmerman had alerted police to strangers of every description), the president legitimized the racial incitement tactics of Sharpton and Co. by suggesting that a son of his would resemble Trayvon. A son of Obama’s might also resemble Chancey Luna or James Edwards, two of the perpetrators of the depraved murder last week in Oklahoma. That teaches us what exactly?


Unlike the Martin tragedy, the murder of Christopher Lane does appear to have had racial overtones. More than that, Lane’s murder may have been conceived as revenge for Trayvon Martin. One of the killers tweeted, “Ayeee, I knocced out 5 woods since Zimmerman court!” followed by a string of expletives. “Woods” is apparently slang for white people. In another tweet, he said, “90 percent of white ppl are nasty. #HATE THEM.”


The president has not expressed condolences to the Lane family or to the nation of Australia. You might say that’s not a presidential role. Perhaps. But the secretary of state has been silent, as well, and when a White House spokesman was asked about the case, he said, “I’m not familiar with it, actually.”


The president went out of his way to phone Sandra Fluke when Rush Limbaugh rudely insulted her. This was part of his campaign to portray the GOP as anti-woman. But as my colleague Jay Nordlinger points out, wouldn’t it have been easy for him to call someone on the other side who was equally mistreated? Had he picked up the phone to express his sympathy to Sarah Palin after her handicapped son was mocked on national television, it would have earned him tremendous goodwill from his political opponents and cost him nothing. On the contrary, his standing would have been enhanced all around.


Well, maybe phoning Palin is asking too much from such an implacable liberal. But what about Leo Johnson?


Never heard of him? That’s because he worked for the wrong side. If he’d been the security guard for, say, the Progressive Policy Institute, he’d be in line for the Medal of Freedom by now.


Leo Johnson was the victim of a politically motivated crime and a doughty hero. He was the security guard on duty at the offices of the Family Research Council in Washington, D.C. in August 2012 when Floyd Lee Corkins came through the door. Corkins was armed with a gun, 100 rounds of ammunition and 12 Chick-fil-A sandwiches, which, he later explained he planned to stuff in his victim’s mouths. The plan was to murder as many FRC employees as possible. When Johnson asked for ID, Corkins pulled a gun out of his backpack and said, “I don’t like your politics” and fired at Johnson, shattering his left arm. Johnson nevertheless was able to tackle Corkins and get the gun away from him.


Leo Johnson had to undergo several surgeries to repair the bones in his arm, including one that harvested bone from his hip to replace the bone that wouldn’t grow back in his arm. As Mark Hemingway reported in the Weekly Standard, Johnson paid a high price for his heroism, suffering no fewer than five blood clots in his lungs and undergoing prolonged blood thinner therapy requiring a lengthy hospital stay. Since Johnson is the primary caretaker for his mother, who has health issues of her own, and his 103-year-old grandmother, it was an ordeal for the entire family. A phone call from President Obama might have cheered him considerably, but it was not forthcoming.


Obama’s constant invocation of “politics” to explain what’s wrong with Washington is shallow and silly. Politics belongs in the capital city. But it’s also galling, as this president has demonstrated almost no ability to transcend politics — even when it would be nearly effortless for him and provide balm for the nation.


Mona Charen is a columnist with Creators Syndicate.