After a town hall meeting in Iowa, the president missed a real opportunity to bridge a gap between liberals and conservatives. Instead of engaging in an honest conversation regarding his administration's characterization of the Tea Party as being terrorists, President Obama dodged the point and strangely tried to invoked sympathy.
When Tea Party activists asked about V.P. Joe Biden and Sec. Janet Napolitano calling the Tea Party members, "terrorists," POTUS could have walked those comments back, or simply stated that his people were wrong to make such statements. Strangely, the president brought up his own struggles of being treated "unfairly" by his opposition in the press and the GOP. None of this is a surprise, considering the White House's game plan has been to deny or blame for over two years. But what struck me the most was how the president brushed aside the debate by telling Ryan Rhodes, an Iowa Tea Party organizer, that he isn't interested in listening. What in the world does the president think a town hall meeting is, a one-way conversation where he gets to talk and his subjects listen?
The truth of the matter is (POTUS's favorite transitional statement) the president got his feathers ruffled when he was called out on the carpet and failed to act as a uniter. Obama simply fell back on his partisan roots. Observers called the exchange "over the top" and the Tea Partiers "rude." On the contrary. The President of the United States should be engaged by the public in this manner. Because Obama is not King or Emperor, the First Amendment is not suspended, nor are we obligated to speak to him in any particular tone of respect. Former White House press secretary, Dana Perino, was critical of the exchange, saying that the Tea Partiers should have extended a greater degree of respect to the president and the office. While I understand her sentiment as a former employee of President Bush, she is missing the larger point, which is the president is our employee and when he screws up, the president deserves to hear our displeasure.
To be fair, I listened to the exchange a few times and feel the Tea Partiers did aggressively challenge the president's answers. Were they rude? In my opinion, no. Folks, the president is not above this type of conversation, nor is he allowed to give unchallenged mealy-mouthed answers. While the mainstream media rarely challenges the president, perhaps it is time for us non-elites to do their job.
Still, there is a level of responsibility the president inherently holds but chooses to ignore. He is the president of the people, not just to elites, the media, or corporations who fund his campaign. Does the president deserve a certain level of respect? Sure he does, and in turn he should respect us. And that is the truth of the matter.