You Missed an Opportunity, Mr. President

Dear Mr. President:

You and I agree on practically nothing in the area of public policy, so I don’t expect my words to have any weight with you. Despite our policy disagreements, I have always tried to show you the proper respect as our president. As a veteran and the child of a veteran, I was raised “old school” – I respect the commander-in-chief, even if his politics are not my own.

I also respect you as a husband and a father. Your words and deeds leave me no doubt that you are a loving and devoted husband, and a doting father, and in that regard you are a much needed role model for the young men in our country, especially young black men. Most of them have never seen a positive male figure in their lives, so I do not diminish the example you set for them.

It is because I am an “old school” officer and gentleman, and because I admire your family ties, that I was extremely disappointed that you missed an opportunity during your press conference today to show leadership that transcends politics and the divisiveness of our day. You had an opportunity today to allow your better angels to take hold, and you let it pass.

You recently called a supporter and ideological ally to offer your support after conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh used intemperate language to describe her after her public statements defending your contraception mandate. You said you thought about your daughters and how you hoped they, too, would someday become actively engaged in issues they care about, and you didn’t “want them attacked or called horrible names because they’re being good citizens.”

Twice in today’s press conference, you were given an opportunity to show your fair-mindedness and burnish your credentials as the president of all Americans, not just those with whom you agree. You once indignantly declared, “I am not an ideologue,” and you were given a perfect opportunity to prove it. You were given a chance to show that your concern for women is more than about just politics, but that you defend the dignity and worth of all women.

And you failed miserably.

Many of my friends, acquaintances and colleagues will chide me for being disappointed, saying, “That’s just the way he is,” or “What did you expect?” I am a hopeful person, however, even in the midst of trying times for our nation and world, and for me personally, and I was truly hoping you’d knock this issue out of the park. I was hoping you would be a man.

It wouldn’t have cost you anything politically, either. If anything, the independents who’ve been running away from you in droves might have been persuaded to give you another chance if you had chosen to be a leader and a statesman rather than a panderer to your base.

Kirsten Powers showed leadership this week. The liberal columnist for the Daily Beast risked taking it on the chin from her ideological teammates by decrying misogyny regardless of its origins, and correctly pointing out how liberals look the other way when it’s one of their own making crude or vile statements about women. Any fair-minded person knows it shouldn’t matter if the person being insulted is conservative or liberal, but in our superheated, hyper-partisan political environment, the side on which you stand along the ideological fault line seems to be all that matters. Ms. Powers showed courage and integrity with her words, the qualities of a true leader.

Instead of taking on this issue like a man, you offered up an excuse that you didn’t have the time to take on every insult made over the public airwaves, and that it’s the press that should be holding commentators accountable, not you. That, sir, is a flimsy excuse. You clearly took the time to call your supporter after the Rush Limbaugh flap, and you’ve had no qualms in the past about jumping right into the middle of a current story – if your friends are involved. You disrespect us with your light regard for our discernment.

In the  end, you continue to demonstrate your inability to show even the most rudimentary qualities of leadership over a diverse nation much in need of a sign of unity from you. Everything in your calculus is political, and there is no room for considering how your tactics are segmenting the nation to the point where the damage could be irreparable. I have daughters, too, Mr. President, and a son, and the example I try to set for them is that right and wrong are not ideological concepts, but matters of truth. That is why I can write in defense of your wife when she is attacked unfairly, even if I don’t agree with her politics.

I am disappointed that you couldn’t, even this once, meet that standard, and I fear that because you took the wide and well-traveled road, the chances your daughters will be “attacked or called horrible names” as they exercise their citizenship are increased, not lessened. You were given a chance to put out the flames, and you chose to walk away while the nation burns.