MSNBC’s Chris Matthews received well-deserved ridicule when he confessed to getting a ‘thrill up my leg’ when listening to Barack Obama. More than eight years later, President Obama is still sending thrills and chills through the legs and spines of many media types who hang on his every word.
This week the president held his final White House press conference. As you would expect, the questioners were respectful and polite. But as we should not expect, they were downright adoring and sycophantic.
One ‘reporter’ complimented the president for ‘expanding the rubber band of inclusion,’ whatever that means. Another expressed fear for the status of illegal immigrants under a Trump administration and essentially urged Mr. Obama to lobby Congress in the future.
All the while, the esteemed correspondents tittered at each presidential joke, resembling schoolgirls in the presence of Justin Bieber or Ross Lynch (that’s why Google was invented!)
There were a few substantive questions, most notably from Fox News White House correspondent Kevin Corke. He pointedly asked President Obama whether he supports the more than 60 House Democrats who will boycott the Trump inauguration.
Kevin’s question provided a great opening, a chance for President Obama to push for the unity he has so often promoted in his soaring speeches. But he totally dodged, saying this: ‘With respect to the inauguration, I’m not going to comment on those issues.’ He then issued a weather report for Friday in Washington.
But why not comment, Mr. President? Five dozen members of your party are acting like petulant urchins, boycotting the swearing in of a legitimately elected president. Some claim it’s all about Russian hacking or something else, but the simple fact is that they do not like Donald Trump. Let’s be more candid: They loathe and despise the man, his demeanor, and his policies.
The ‘what if?’ game can get tiresome, but what if dozens of Republicans had skipped the inauguration of Barack Obama? They would of course be pilloried as racists and even traitors. But now? The Los Angeles Times says the boycotters are correct because the Trump campaign was ‘defined by divisiveness.’ Editorial pages uniformly applaud Congressman John Lewis, a leader of the boycott who also sat out the inauguration of George W. Bush in 2001. It seems Mr. Lewis doesn’t like sitting outside in Washington in January. Unless, of course, it’s a Democrat being sworn in.
These boycotters are protesting what they call Mr. Trump’s ‘disrespect’ by disrespecting him and the office he is about to assume. They are wrong, but will never pay a political price in their overwhelmingly liberal districts.
One thing should be very clear. It takes absolutely no ‘courage’ for a member of Congress to sit out the inauguration when it will help him or her with the voters back home. And there is no ‘bravery’ when an entertainer refuses to participate in the event, not when they are applauded by other Hollywood groupthinkers.
Courage is dodging bullets and sidestepping IEDs in Afghanistan, bravery is rushing into a burning house to rescue someone or arresting a gang member in Chicago. What John Lewis did in 1965, when he put his life on the line for a righteous cause, required incredible courage. What he is doing now is pure showboating. And in the case of President Obama, bravery would have meant calling out his fellow Democrats and urging them to attend the inauguration for the sake of national unity.
Instead, the president essentially voted ‘present,’ as he has done so many times before. Rather than stand up for what he knows is right, he took a pass. It was one final display of the leadership vacuum that has existed for the past eight years.
We wish President Obama a prosperous and happy retirement, and no doubt it will be both, but the time is ripe for a change. The American people said that clearly in November, and now change is arriving in the form of a frequently bombastic and sometimes erratic man who has never held office.
Many White House reporters will long for Barack Obama’s cool style and seductive smile, which affected them more than they may admit. They certainly won’t like Donald Trump, won’t chuckle at his jokes, won’t throw him softball questions.
We the people don’t need them to get a thrill up their collective legs. But how about giving the new president a chance? Is that really too much to ask? We are about to find out.