Friday, March 26, 2010

With Malice Toward None, Mr. President

President Obama traveled to Iowa yesterday presumably to "sell" the bill that he has already signed into law. I'll leave aside the easy "cart before the horse" comments to focus, instead, on his predisposition to mock opponents of the legislation. While this behaviour demonstrates at least a lack of class, it's actually worse than that: It's unpresidential.

Someone close to the president needs to remind him that Obamacare only narrowly passed. That it did so along rigid and increasingly bitter partisan lines. That the fight over its passage was long and the rhetoric heated. That having been signed into law only last Tuesday, the wounds are still raw and the scars that, we hope, will eventually cover those wounds are likely to remain for some time nevertheless.

As a result, the president's most obvious immediate political task is to pursue the unification of the country. He should be playing the part of the gracious winner, humbly sticking out his hand to shake those of his opponents. He should look for opportunities to recognize the good will and effort of the opposition. He should assuage lingering fears, appeal for extra measures of trust, seek to soothe ruffled feathers, etc.

But for someone who was lauded for possessing a personality that was uniquely post-partisan, cool and detached, he appears, to this point anyway, not up to this part of the job. If he doesn't figure it out quickly, he risks not only the health of his presidency, but, more importantly, the health of the country.

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