If he was setting out to become the anti-Reagan, Obama has exceeded even his own expectations. Whether you look at economics, foreign policy, or special interests, there is a lot of material to work with.
But there is another way in which these men can be compared. The way they deal with the American public. Do they bring healing or strife? Do they divide or unite? Let’s compare Obama’s presidency with a single poignant entry from Reagan’s diary.
Many Republicans, when Obama was first elected, had at least one point of optimism. Whatever their reservations about his rhetoric, his disdain for life, and his policies, there was at least one upside. In voting Obama (we hoped) we might finally be turning the page on the deep racial divide that had entrenched itself in American culture.
This election of Obama by Americans from all cultural backgrounds might finally (we hoped) bring healing to the deep wounds of days gone by. But where did that healing go? Look around at the spike in Race Riots, Shaun King (white guy posing as a black activist) whipping crowds into a frenzy, and professional race-baiter Al Sharpton as a personal friend of the president.
Is anything better 7 years later? Lewis Farrakhan calls for the murder of white people in a public address, and yet walks the street a free man. We can’t even watch the Superbowl halftime show anymore without someone making a political statement. “Police are bad.”
Law enforcement are the very men and women who, for relatively modest pay, spend their day dealing with people at their very worst. (This is true whether dealing with an offender or a victim.) They work in a broken system against unknown dangers, impossible odds, and now have the added pressure of a groundswell of people casting them in the role of villain. (The President has personally poured gas on this fire, in publicly choosing sides long before a jury has heard the case.)
Whatever one might say about individual cases of wrongdoing — which can and should be prosecuted in the same way that all other offenders are, and (this is important!) with the same presumption of innocence — we have created an environment where the police as a whole have been demonized as cruel, violent, opportunistic monsters.
Create an environment where a group of people become the moral equivalent of Nazi SS, and what do you expect will happen? People with an inclination to violence, and who already hate cops, will see an opportunity. And more importantly, they have been given a moral justification for doing so.
Eight cops lie dead in eight days. A sheriff in Maryland has had enough, and is calling for the President to break his silence. Challenging Obama to attend the funerals, he said “I’ll save you a spot next to me.”
Some of the murders were actually premeditated cop-killings with the fatal outcome announced long before police arrived on scene. Which is why some are now calling for cop-killing to be designated a hate crime.
Obama is doing nothing to quell the growing violence and anti-police resentment. We have yet to see him stand — with say, Beyonce — in a public appeal to not murder cops.
If police begin to fear for their safety, there will be diminished neighborhood police presence. Those with the most to lose are the poor, and the vulnerable. Obama’s own beloved Chicago had 11 violent deaths in the last week. Does anyone believe that number would go down with a reduced police presence?
Compare Obama’s habitual divisiveness to the following Reagan diary entry. He had just heard of a cross burning, and this is how he personally sought to bring unity to a divided nation. There was no ‘leading from behind” from him.
“Read this morning of a black family—husband and wife both work in govt. printing office. They live in a nice house near U. of Maryland. They have been harassed and even had a cross burned on their lawn. It was all on the front page of the “Post.” I told Mike & Jim I’d like to call on them. We cleared the last part of the afternoon schedule & Nancy & I went calling. They were a very nice couple with a 4 year old daughter—grandma (a most gracious lady) lived with them. Their home was very nice & tastefully furnished. They were very nice about our coming & expressed their thanks. The whole neighborhood was lining the street—most of them cheering and applauding us. I hope we did some good. There is no place in this land for the hate-mongers & bigots.”
That is what it looks like for a President to stand with someone.