No, this is not an article about madrasas. No, I am not requesting that Obama release his academic records. Remember the 1988 book All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten? Well, I never read it but I do know the premise. The lessons learned early in life are the most important ones, lessons about honesty, fairness, and kindness. One thing that I learned at a very young age was not to call names. How does this lesson apply to President Barack Obama? Let’s take a trip in the wayback machine and see.
April, 2008: Obama as a candidate for President said,
You go into some of these small towns in Pennsylvania, and like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing’s replaced them and they fell through the Clinton Administration, and the Bush Administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not. And it’s not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.
July, 2009: President Obama said,
I don’t know – not having been there and not seeing all the facts – what role race played in that, but I think it’s fair to say, number one, any of us would be pretty angry; number two that the Cambridge police acted stupidly in arresting somebody when there was already proof that they were in their own home.
Both of these statements by Obama triggered outrage from his critics. How dare he call Pennsylvanians “bitter”? The nerve of him to call the Cambridge police stupid! At the time, I defended him because I felt in both cases he spoke truth. Yet now comes another incident that has me rethinking my position.
November, 2011: President remarks at APEC Forum,
I think it’s important to remember that the United States is still the largest recipient of foreign investment in the world. And there are a lot of things that make foreign investors see the U.S. as a great opportunity — our stability, our openness, our innovative free market culture. But we’ve been a little bit lazy, I think, over the last couple of decades. We’ve kind of taken for granted — well, people will want to come here and we aren’t out there hungry, selling America and trying to attract new business into America.
GOP Presidential wanna-be Rick Perry took this quote and ran with it claiming that Obama was calling Americans lazy. He drummed up a campaign ad totally distorting Obama’s message.
Democrats are right to criticize Perry for taking Obama’s message out of context. Clearly, Obama was not talking about Americans in general. He was talking about American business and their efforts to pursue foreign investment. But what Obama’s defenders are missing is that the entire brouhaha could have been avoided if Obama did not engage in name calling.
Whether it’s “bitter” in 2008 or “acted stupidly” in 2009 or “lazy” in 2011, Barack has a hard time staying away from negative, damning adjectives. When he does this he comes off judgmental and condescending. He is basically begging his opponents to kick him in the ass either in context or out of context.
A man of Obama’s considerable rhetorical skills should know that it is always better to phrase a criticism or judgment in the form of a positive suggestion for improvement rather than a negative description of the current behavior. Every corporate manager has been taught this when training to give performance reviews.
My advice to the President: stop name-calling and start building alliances. You’ll need every alliance you can find in 2012.