President Obama was scheduled to speak at my alma mater today. But as Hurricane Sandy made it increasingly clear she was up to some very nasty business, Obama canceled his plans and flew back to Washington. I found out about his departure from a young student as I turned into one of the university’s many parking garages. “The president had to go” she told me. “Romney’s campaign would’ve bad mouthed him if he didn’t.”
Now I have no way of knowing if this would have been Mitt Romney’s response had the president gone ahead with his speech before flying back to the capital. But it wouldn’t have surprised me because for the past four years, I’ve heard again and again how Mr. Obama does nothing but play golf, go on the Letterman Show, vacation in Hawaii, take his dog for a walk, ad nauseum. Of course, those keeping score need only look at the record to find that George W. Bush took 1,020 vacation days during his eight years in office, more than any U.S. President since Herbert Hoover. But I don’t really give a damn whether it was Mr. Bush or JFK who took all that “time off.” First of all, when you’re president, you’re never really on vacation; the briefings don’t stop and the Secret Service is ever present. In addition, presidents need their days off. Relaxation is key to handling stress. The better rested a president, the better his/her decision making skills. That being said, I don’t recall anyone in the Republican party bemoaning the fact that Mr. Bush spent so many days at his Texas ranch. Yet the moment President Obama steps onto a putting green, vast platoons of Chicken Littles start screaming that the sky is falling.
I was reminded of this today when a friend pointed out that the president spent too much money flying to Florida last night, especially if it was just to make a stop at the local campaign headquarters. Instead, the argument went, Mr. Obama shouldn’t have left D.C. at all because the forecast for Hurricane Sandy was already dire, so why wait to cancel his stump speech until this morning? The truth is I really don’t know. I am not privy to Mr. Obama’s itinerary. He could have had private business in Florida that made it necessary for him to be here. Another thing—I really don’t care. So what if Obama waited until today? A president can issue orders from wherever he or she is. He doesn’t need to be in Washington to declare a city or state a disaster area or to send out the National Guard. But that’s not really the issue, is it? No. Because even if President Obama had the magical power to dissipate the storm, there would still be people in the GOP complaining.
I’m sick of this. I’m sick of the Right finding nothing positive to say about our president. No matter what he does, it’s wrong. He could give Republicans everything they ever wanted and it still wouldn’t matter. We would still hear cries of “commie,” “socialist,” “he’s not an American,” and on and on. The facts mean nothing. Why even bother to look them up when FOX News tells you every single report from any other source is a lie. That’s right. Every media outlet sans FOX is in on the conspiracy. I’m not exactly sure what the conspiracy is but they’re in on it.
Notice I haven’t “played the race card” yet. Well, allow me to shuffle my deck. Not every caucasian who votes for Mitt Romney is a racist. Not every white person who dislikes Obama is a racist. But make no mistake—racism has reared its ugly head in the four years of Mr. Obama’s presidency. People who aren’t racist don’t turn up at political rallies in white face. They don’t carry around signs that read “put the white back in the White House.” They don’t accuse honorable statesmen and decorated military officers like Colin Powell of endorsing the president because both men are black as John Sununu did the other day.
The ugliness is astounding. And it’s gotten damn scary. Two weeks ago a stranger actually followed me home and confronted me in front of my house because I had an Obama 2012 bumper sticker on my car. He shouted and cursed at me from his truck before revving his engine multiple times and driving away. Would this guy have done that had the president been white? I seriously doubt it. And yes, I know there are Democrats who are stealing Romney signs from front yards and that’s rotten. But just once when I share my story with a member of the opposite party, I’d like to hear “I’m really sorry,” without the added, “but your side does it, too.” That kind of “back and forth” helps no one.
I’ll be glad when this election is over. Glad when I no longer see folks bragging about how many people they “unfriended” on Facebook over political differences. Glad when the name calling will at least settle down (I’m not naïve enough to think it will go away). But I’m worried. So worried about the United States. Because our states are anything but united and I don’t see that changing any time soon, no matter who wins the presidency. Over the weekend columnist Andrew Sullivan observed that we are in the midst of a cold Civil War. I agree. Except there’s nothing civil about it.