My friend Mark Olmsted, who introduced me to the Huffington Post (HP), is now a blogger for HP and a darned good one. If you haven't done so already, go to HP and check out Mark's posts.
Generally when I read anything that Mark writes, I find myself nodding my head and going, "Yes, yes, yes!" However, on occasion, I do find myself in disagreement with his point of view, but our friendship manages to survive.
His most recent post, What's It Going to Take, Barack? A Screed, is everything that I've come to expect from Mark's writing--cohesive, focused, and provocative, but I'm not feeling him on his point of view. It's difficult to accurately summarize Mark's argument in a sentence or two. He is never simplistic and I don't want to misrepresent his views; please read his post for yourself.
I read his post as suggesting that it's time for Obama to take the gloves off and cease his efforts at a bipartisan approach. I don't agree and lay out my thoughts below.
I think that Obama is fighting in the best way that he can; he's the president of the United States, not Mike Tyson. If he loses his cool, comes out swinging, he'll play into the hands of his attackers by becoming the poster child for the angry black man. I think that the president understands that the only thing that frightens white America more than an angry black man is an intelligent black man and he is playing to his strengths.
His detractors continually emphasize that he is dangerous, a secret Muslim sympathizer run amok, a black man who hates the Constitution. What he wisely has chosen not to do is feed those fires by behaving in a manner that allows his attackers to say, "See, we told you he was a loose cannon." It's not the wingnut elected officials that are publicly leading the "Obama is the progeny of Hitler and Mussolini" contingency; it's Don and Ethel from small minded America. Those of us who support Obama, who support his policies, we are the ones who can get into the fray and take on the fight.
Obama has to stay above this. He can't take on Beck or Limbaugh. By even addressing their attacks, he gives them more credibility than they deserve. Rahm can't do it either. The labeling of Obama as a Nazi, the accusations of reverse racism, can't be given any credibility by his administration. To address them directly, to argue that they have no merit, gives them a semblance of merit.
I don't think it's accurate to characterize Obama as wanting to be liked. If the man was shallow enough to be in this because he wants adulation, he certainly wouldn't have chosen to seek the presidency. There has not been a president who wasn't despised by some of the people at all times. It's not about placating people, it's about Obama remembering what the nut cases do not--he's the president of all the people, even the rabid crazies.
There is a serious rift in this country that has the potential to destroy us. Obama's focus is on bridging the rift and moving forward with a policy agenda in the face of opposition. Please don't misread Obama maintaining his cool with being fearful or indecisive. He ran his campaign with the same sense of calm control. Some of his followers wanted him to take a more aggressive stand with his detractors. He won doing it his way. Obama doesn't need to call us to Washington. The tea party folks organized themselves; we can do the same thing.
Confession: I stole the title of this post from the Klingons.