Among the many questions hanging over Barack Obama’s failed presidency is this: why could he not heal the nation’s divisions and promote a new era of national unity?
No, seriously. Don’t laugh too hard. Obama’s supporters, people for whom the president can do no wrong and for whom he is not responsible for anything that went wrong during his tenure in office, hold as an article of faith that his presidency was sabotaged by Congressional Republicans and American racists.
Of course, the same people believe that everything bad that happens in the country is the fault of Congressional Republicans and American racists, sexists, homophobes, transphobes and the like. So, the question is: was Barack Obama an honorable man who could not overcome racial hatred or was he a divisive figure who turned Americans against each other? Was his polite, courteous, genteel demeanor the truth or a lie?
How can we know which?
It’s not as hard as it seems. Take a relatively innocuous event, one where the president of the United States is called upon to play a ceremonial role, a role in which he transcends ideology and unites the nation by acting like the president of all the people, not just of Democrats. After all, the American president is not merely a political leader. He shares one role with the British monarch: he symbolizes national unity and he is charged with conducting ceremonies that signify that unity.
Now, we know the answer.
Barack Obama has chosen to snub the funeral of the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. Petulant and petty, Obama is showing the truth about his administration. It would have cost him nothing. It would have done nothing more than to create good will. Thus, Obama chose to use the occasion to show that he is beneath it all, that he is a petty, vindictive man who puts ideology before national unity.
When it comes to divisive ideological gestures Obama is a master. Just because he does not look like a loudmouthed blowhard does not mean that he is a model of propriety. In fact, he is anything but. He just hides it better.
Obama took the occasion of the Scalia funeral to divide America, to force Americans to see it through their ideological blinders. To the end he remains Jeremiah Wright’s protégé.
What was the reason? Apparently, our thin-skinned president took Scalia’s vigorous dissents on Obamacare personally. He was offended. It hurt his feelings. Scalia failed to put a trigger warning on his opinions.
Obama could have risen above his personal pique, but that would have been a lot to expect from a man whose presidency turned Americans against each other and tried to take advantage of the divisions.
A couple of days ago President Obama was explaining why he believed that Donald Trump would never become president. The American people, Obama explained, know that the presidency is a “serious job.” The problem with his reasoning is simple. If the American people knew that the presidency was a serious job they would never have elected and re-elected Barack Obama.