Just because the President is from the 'other team' doesn't mean you should act hysterical in response to his every action. Doing so just makes you a hack.
Before one starts typing a post on Facebook, the field says "What's on your mind?" How very fitting: that's exactly the question I want to answer right now.
President Barack Obama's historic Presidency came to its conclusion this past month. He boarded Marine One (temporarily "Executive One") for the last time and flew directly over My wife and I. I must admit that, as I watched his helicopter fade into the distance, mixed feelings washed over me.
On the one hand, I felt cautiously hopeful. I did not vote for Obama in 2008, nor did I vote for him in 2012. Politically, I am conservative; thus, Obama and I harbored deeply divergent policy positions. I opposed Obamacare, opposed his enormous fiscal deficits, opposed many of his immigration measures, and so forth. I felt that, from a policy perspective, it was time for change in Washington, D.C. I was--and remain--ready for a conservative approach to governance. Uncertainties about his successor notwithstanding, this is why I felt cautiously optimistic.
On the other hand, feelings of what I can only describe as remorse also welled up in me. As I said, Obama's Presidency was historic, and he came into office on a wave of, for many, hopeful optimism. To this day, the 69 million votes he received is a record. His Electoral College victory margin was substantial, and the 10 million votes that separated him and John McCain easily represent one of the top-ten largest popular margins ever. He received more opposing-party votes than anyone since Ronald Reagan. His second inauguration was the second largest in history--second only to his own first inauguration, which drew more people to D.C. than Donald Trump's, both of George W. Bush's, and one of Bill Clinton's added together. His "movement" remains the largest in recent memory.
I think that when he came into office he was a bit naïve and idealistic, believing that he could change more than a President actually can. He did eventually grow into the Office's constraints, however, and adopted a more pragmatic approach to governing during his final years in office--especially in matters of foreign policy. (This has nothing to do with his policy positions; rather, it's a statement about his approach.)
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This is a long preamble leading into why I felt a bit of remorse. Barack Obama was subjected to some of the most withering criticism I've ever heard. I've heard much criticism of Obama's policies, and I largely agree with it. Unfortunately, I've also heard unbelievable personal insults hurled his way. I've heard people criticize him and even his family because of the color of their skin. I've heard fellow conservatives say that they "hate" him. (This sentiment appears to still be running strong: during Trump's inaugural parade, I heard several of his supporters telling each other that they "literally hate Hillary Clinton.") I've heard him called the anti-Christ. I've heard Obama's opponents accuse him of selling out his country. I've even observed conservatives openly rooting for him to fail--more times than I could ever count. (In my view, this last issue is both immoral and unpatriotic.)
This underscores a reprehensible inability on the part of many to separate "Obama the policy setter" from "Obama the man." In my view, "Obama the policy setter" was not a total success. I simply do not believe that liberal policies are in the best interest of this country, but that is where my disapproval of him ends: my differences with him are purely matters of policy--nothing more.
"Obama the man" is above reproach; I genuinely believe that he is a very good person and that he set a wonderful personal example for all Americans. He harbored and displayed a deep devotion to his family, appearing at all times to have been a committed and proud husband and father. Obama conducted himself professionally and always had a calm, even hand on the tiller. He did not deserve the vicious venom hurled at him, but he handled it with grace and dignity. Admirably, he did not respond by leveling the same type of insults at his detractors. He is simply a good, nice person. The way in which he comported himself is an example of which all Americans should be proud. Indeed, we should thank him for it.
So I'll admit that I actually feel a bit badly about it--sad even. He and his family devoted eight years of their lives to the service of our country. They received unbelievably raw, personal insults for the duration, yet all of them appear to have taken the high road every time. I don't delight in hating people, so I see the Obamas for who they were: good, well-intended people who, misguided though their policies frequently were, arrived on the White House front steps on January 20, 2009 sincerely hoping to make a positive difference for our country.
For that, I thank them. For the ugly insults, I apologize to them. I wish President Obama nothing but the best in his well-deserved retirement.
It's no secret that even though I am a proud Republican and a genuine conservative, Donald Trump was far from my first choice. That said, I choose to give him a chance. What other option is there really? I remain hopeful that we will now have effective, pragmatic, conservative governance--effective, pragmatic, conservative governance that benefits all Americans, that leaves no one out.
Going forward, I hope that everyone will consider what I've said here and will consider separating the President's character from the President's official actions. If both deserve condemnation, then condemn them. If they don't though, then do not conflate the two simply because it feels good to your baser side.
Give our leaders and their families--no matter their political positions--the same respect you would ask for yourself and for your families. If you're still attacking the Obamas, then you're wrong. If you're burning trash cans and cars in the street, then you're wrong. We must change the tone in this country, and we conservatives must admit that our own conduct and words have not lived up to the ideal. It is incumbent, starting right now and regardless of the past, on both sides of the political divide and on our entire electorate to commit ourselves to a more respectful approach to dialog--even if it appears that our efforts are not reciprocated.
I think that all too often we feel so disconnected from our President and so passionate about our political positions that we forget that the President isn't just the President. Just like us, he is also a father, a husband, a friend, and a human being with feelings, hopes, dreams, and so forth. From now on, let's try to reacquaint ourselves with the Golden Rule.
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