In recent weeks we have seen the tale of two American political leaders and the folly their words can cause when not well crafted.
In President Barack Obama’s case, the spoken word has not been backed by the action promised. Understandably, as a result of the disparity created by his words and actions, or lack thereof, his credibility, and our credibility as a nation, now suffers.
But the infamous “red line” remarks the president issued a year ago were not the only suspect comments the president has made during his tenure.
In fact, a fair look at his record would show that the president has made any number of comments that would have drawn greater scrutiny had he been a less skillful politician. Many of the promises he made about his landmark legislative achievement have not come to pass. In fact, many have been proved false, but Obamacare is a new sacred cow of the left. Like the man himself, it’s seemingly beyond reproach.
In the case of Obama, there is a noticeable muted reaction: a collective blind eye cast by certain quarters in the media. They were full of criticism and righteous indignation whenever his predecessor misspoke, proved politically inept or ventured into foreign conflicts. I fail to see equal vigilance now. The constant chorus of soft applause from the intelligentsia, some members of the media and his own party, no matter what he does, is at a minimum, curious.
Much to the president’s credit, he has demonstrated a preternatural ability to avoid criticism, but much of the media and members of his own party have proved accommodating accomplices. As a result, their collective credibility now wanes and suffers. Most tragically it has become harder and harder to find voices of true American objectivity at a time when it is needed most. One need look no further than the cacophony of comments between Secretary of State John Kerry and Obama regarding Syria and the lack of serious criticism from sympathetic quarters.
Similarly, but quite different, Maine Gov. Paul LePage recently made incendiary remarks about the president at a Belgrade fundraiser in August.
The remarks made by LePage, like countless others that came before it, were one of many that have been laced with malice. Perhaps this is why the words of LePage persistently shadow him so: They are awkwardly and uncomfortably personal in nature. They prevent him from making greater relationships, real or abstract, with anyone outside his echo chamber.
Silly gaffes can be excused, even forgotten, but the odiferous personal vitriol he spews lingers like persistent political halitosis. Likewise, after it was revealed by “ear witnesses” at the event, many folks who have an obligation to higher principles chose to stay muted. In fact, some applauded the governor and condemned those who chose to say something, albeit anonymously. Even further still, there were claims of a “vast left-wing conspiracy.”
LePage and his supporters are much like the president and his supporters. They turn a blind eye to the ruinous effect of their leaders’ words. LePage, with his continued remarks, has degraded the GOP’s moral authority required to lead and govern.
Obama devotees are similar in their rigid and blind orthodoxy. They believed that Obama’s soaring rhetoric alone could be transformative nationally and internationally. It’s with great irony one of his first and most acclaimed foreign policy speeches was in Cairo, the capital of a country now mired in violence and conflict. Despite 4½ years of soaring, sometimes inconsistent and, at times, combative rhetoric, the country languishes economically and internationally. Yet, no conscientious objector from nonconservative quarters makes himself or herself known.
Where LePage seems malicious and destructive with his words, Obama seems dispassionate, subtle, aloof and indifferent with his. Ironically, both qualities have rendered both men unable to forge meaningful relationships required to lead and have only served to hasten the shift of the respective parties further and further from one another. In the void, not a single voice fills the breach.
If we are to inject a modicum of objectivity back into the political argument, we too — political lay people, the press, rank-and-file party members — need to be the harbingers of a new objectivity. When criticism and condemnation is warranted, it should rise from all quarters.
Three weeks ago, I condemned the governor’s remarks. Today, I remain one of the only, if not the only, member of the Republican Party to do so. However, I have yet to hear criticisms from Democrats about Obama’s recent foreign policy failures.
The silence, on both sides, is deafening.
Dean Scontras was the Republican nominee in the 2010 race to represent Maine’s 1st District in the U.S. House.