Where's Obama? Healy at the NY Times Expects Candidates, Not President, to Be 'Unifying Voice'

July 11th, 2016 5:25 PM

In a Sunday front-page report at the New York Times, Patrick Healy, who has been covering the presidential race almost exclusively for well over a year, complained that neither major party's presidential frontrunner appears to have the capacity to be "a unifying candidate." After all, as his story's headline indicated, somebody, right now, needs "to Be (a) Unifying Voice for (the) Nation."

Hold on there, Patrick. Since when did it become the job of private citizens, neither of whom currently holds political office, to pull the country together when we have a President named Barack Obama who is supposed to be handling that task?

As seen in the sixth and seventh paragraphs excerpted below, Healy's only references to Obama had to do with "historic candidacy" eight years ago (bolds are mine):

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton Struggle to Be Unifying Voice for Nation

No moment in the 2016 presidential campaign has cried out more for a unifying candidate than the police shootings of two black men last week and the ensuing national uproar, followed by the shocking sniper ambush that killed five police officers in Dallas.

And no other moment has revealed more starkly how hard it is for Donald J. Trump and Hillary Clinton to become that candidate.

Never have two presidential nominees been as unpopular as Mr. Trump and Mrs. Clinton, and they are not fully trusted by their own parties nor showing significant crossover appeal in the polls. Mr. Trump, the self-described champion of law and order, is also the political figure many people blame for sowing division and hatred with his attacks on illegal immigrants, Muslims, Mexicans and others. Rather than defuse tension, he electrifies crowds and vanquishes rivals through provocations that he delights in calling politically incorrect.

Of the two, Mrs. Clinton would seem more able, and driven, to try to bring the country together. She has a large following among black voters and speaks ardently about the need for “respect” and “love and kindness.” After Dallas, she called on “white people to understand how African-Americans feel every day.” Yet many on the right and some on the left dislike her intensely, and even her admirers say she lacks the public emotion, oratorical skills and reputation for honesty to persuade large numbers of Americans to see things her way.

The need for a reassuring and healing voice has come at a particularly bad time for the two presumptive presidential nominees. For many Americans, Mrs. Clinton’s credibility was further damaged last week as the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, sharply criticized her for being “extremely careless” about her use of private email as secretary of state. At the same time, Mr. Trump alienated many voters with his mixed comments about Saddam Hussein and his defensiveness over a Twitter post that many people regarded as anti-Semitic.

... Traumatic events have at times become opportunities for presidential candidates to step up and grow in the eyes of the American public, such as when Bill Clinton went to Los Angeles in 1992 in the aftermath of the riots there, or when Barack Obama pushed for aggressive, bipartisan action from the federal government to stem the banking crisis and protect taxpayers.

Mr. Clinton’s new-generation image and empathic personality appealed across party lines, as did Mr. Obama’s historic candidacy. And in moments of national crisis, presidents have shown ability to unify the country, if fleetingly, like George W. Bush did after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Perhaps Healy's "oversight" stems from an inherent recognition that Obama's interest in unifying the nation virtually ceased once he was elected.

In early 2009, Obama stood by while leftist rabble demonstrated and acted disruptively at the personal homes of bank and insurance company executives, even when only their spouses and children were present, and even when leftists' tactics ratcheted up to the level of death threats. (Even then, as seen at the just-linked article, the Times made sure to keep Obama's name out of such stories, even though they directly followed his bully-pulpit statements criticizing financial executives who had received bonuses.)

Wisconsin blogger and law professor Ann Althouse, who voted for Obama in 2008, noted Healy's "oversight," and was none too pleased:

What's missing? Why is racial discord the problem of the summer 2016? If anyone has what it takes to unify the country over race it is Barack Obama, who is President right now and who had been President for 7 1/2 years. If it makes any sense to be deciding the current presidential election on this issue, if this longed-for capacity is something that can possibly exist, then Barack Obama would be doing it now and would have been doing it for years.

Before you push us to judge whether Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump would do better in bringing us together in racial harmony, Mr. Healy, please say a few words about why President Obama has failed. Of course, neither Clinton nor Trump inspires hope for a new opportunity at racial harmony. That's what Obama did in 2008. He was ideal for that issue and we voted for the hope. Now, so many years later, things seem even worse. Can you analyze how that happened? Because that did happen. I don't see how we can begin to think about what more Trump or Clinton could do unless we understand why President Obama failed.

The default argument has to be that Obama's track record of failure in fostering national unity can best be explained by contending that has never genuinely been interested in succeeding. On this, I simply must disagree with James Taranto at the Wall Street Journal, who wrote on Monday that Obama deserves a "qualified defense" because he "is uniquely constrained by the unreasonable hopes that so many Americans placed in him." No sir, he had a unique opportunity, as Althouse noted, and completely blew it. More accurately, he blew it off.

If Obama was interested in unity, his conduct would have been different on more occasions in the past 7-1/2 years than one can hope to fully recount.

He wouldn't have said, without knowing the facts, that a Cambridge, Massachusetts cop "acted stupidly" when the officer arrested a black Harvard law professor (by the way, Obama does not regret having made that remark). He wouldn't have used every nationally-publicized tragedy as a reason to rub gun control in everyone's faces. He and his Department of (intensely politicized) Justice wouldn't be pretending that we can't possibly know or "untangle" the plainly stated motivations of Omar Mateen or Micah X. Johnson.

Going beyond public safety and race relations, he wouldn't have insisted that he could go around Congress at will and act unilaterally in areas such as healthcare, energy and immigration — even defying or deceiving federal judges in certain instances when matters didn't go his way, or weren't going his way.

So I guess it's better, from the perspective of Patrick Healy and the Times, to dwell on what two people who are only at the point of seeking this nation's presidency could or should be doing to unify the nation — even though it's a de facto admission that the person in a position to genuinely work on that has utterly failed, and from all outward appearances has done so through neglect and design.

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.