Friday, May 13, 2011

Musings on THE Birth Certficate

I withheld this column last week to congratulate President Obama on dispatching Osama Bin Laden.

I also thank Obama for finally releasing his birth certificate and ending the torment that was this issue. The President is correct; it was an unnecessary distraction from the profound problems we face as a nation. However, the President was fully complicit in perpetuating the birther thing by not releasing the document far earlier. Was his delay an act of stubbornness? Obama is no fool. He must have calculated that keeping this alive helped him politically. The prevailing wisdom is that it marginalized his conservative opposition. Perhaps Obama allowed the issue to percolate precisely because it was a distraction from the bad economic, political, and international news that is ingrained in the fabric of his presidency. Whatever Obama’s reasons were for letting this nonsense fester, it did him and the nation no good. However, there was something real behind the life that this issue took on. That is the feeling that the President is somehow “foreign”.

I have no doubt that there is an unfortunate racial aspect to this perception, and it is compounded by the President having a name that is distinctly Islamic at a time when the West is in the midst of a civilizational cold war with the Muslim world. I suspect that Obama the person has had to deal with this throughout his entire life, and to his and America’s credit he has obviously navigated very successfully. However, most of Obama’s foreignness has to do with his character and politics.

Despite the efforts of the media and Obama to minimize the significance of the personal associations he has had with the likes of Ayers, Reverend Wright, and more recently Pastor Smith, a narrative develops of a President comfortable in a world of extreme politics. The beliefs reflected by these chosen associations are far distant from those of a majority of Americans.

Obama’s campaign of apology for the U.S. in foreign lands that dominated his first year in office put the President on the outside. Americans are generally proud of their role in the world. Though by no means perfect, our system generates great wealth, innovation, and freedom, and we as a nation have sacrificed treasure and life to support the cause of liberty throughout the world. Having the President who is the face of America demean the nation to foreigners implies a disloyalty not readily accepted of a President.

Obama seems to be a closed and distant personality as a public figure. No matter how hard I listen to his speeches, I find it almost impossible to get a read on what he is thinking. I’m not sure if it is because his content is often inconsistent or purposely vague, but the President often seems to be studiously hiding his real intentions. As such, the American public, both on the right and the left, have in him a blank slate, ascribing to him beliefs of their own for good or bad that his later behaviors often belie. Being difficult to connect with, Obama has been an unknown.

Mr. Obama is not the first president I have found alien. I was initially appalled by the election of Ronald Reagan who seemed to be such an intellectual lightweight. Stories of his falling asleep in cabinet meetings and his “down home” speeches made me cringe. Then I had an epiphany about this man. As I listened to one of his homilies, I realized that Reagan was not talking to me, a Northeast Ivy Leaguer. He was addressing that large body on Americans throughout Midwest, South, and West who are our blue collar working neighbors and who are the heart of this nation. From this perspective, Reagan’s communication was true genius. As his presidency unfolded, Reagan’s remarkable qualities became evident.

I can’t tell to whom Obama speaks.

Perhaps what makes this president most foreign to many Americans is what seems to be his view of America. Joe the Plumber heard that we need to redistribute wealth. 45% of Americans pay no federal income taxes. More money is being paid out through entitlements than is coming into the government in taxes. We learned to work hard, succeed and build for our families and country. Our children will work hard to give up the fruits of their labor to a government of entitlement that is buried in debt. Obama’s America is a foreign country. What America is this? Where’s the birth certificate?