“You lie!” The two words, carrying the weight of centuries of racism, echoed throughout the Congress in the middle of President Barack Obama’s speech to a Joint Session of Congress. Representative Joe Wilson shouted, impossibly disrespectful, heckling the president of these United States. President Obama paused, then went on. But those days are over.
The Republicans have been having a tantrum because a man of mixed heritage won two national elections. They publicly refused to pass bills and to even vote on a Supreme Court judge. If we want to see the darkest racism, go no further than the Republican-held Congress.
President Obama took it, maintaining his dignity. But in these last few months of his presidency, he is taking off the gloves. This couldn’t be more evident than at the last White House Correspondents’ Association dinner, where he said:
‘In fact, for months now, congressional Republicans have been saying there are things I cannot do in my final year. Unfortunately, this dinner was not one of them. But on everything else, it’s another story. And you know who you are, Republicans.’
In an unprecedented move, the Republicans refused to even talk to President Obama’s choice for Supreme Court Justice, Judge Merrick Garland. So, President Obama let Reince Priebus have it for endorsing Donald Trump as the GOP candidate:
‘GOP chairman Reince Priebus is here as well. (Applause.) Glad to see you that you feel that you’ve earned a night off. (Laughter.) Congratulations on all your success. The Republican Party, the nomination process — it’s all going great. Keep it up. (Laughter and
Throughout his presidency, the Republicans have called President Obama “every name is the book, including the N-word.” They blocked all of the bills he wanted and threatened a government shutdown to pressure him into submitting to the Republicans.
Even though they clearly do not respect this president, they refuse to even respect the office of the president. Republicans have consistently lied about him, saying he is a secret “Muslim” trying to convert the country into “a fascist or communist regime. Not only that, they call him “a dictator, a tyrant.”
They have even called for his death. Republicans believe that President Obama is going to take all their guns, even though one would think he would have done it by now, if he were going to take them at all.
As Republicans bombarded President Obama with hateful, racist rhetoric, he remained above it, and remained dignified. His very high approval ratings just keep rising. When historian Doris Kearns Goodwin interviewed him for Vanity Fair, he told her he was not going to go into quiet semi-seclusion.
No, he is going to use his community organizer experience to fight for change:
‘The power of the office is unique, and it is a humbling privilege.’
Then, President Obama spoke of the responsibility of power:
‘With that power, however, also comes a whole host of institutional constraints. There are things I cannot say.’
The president knows how important it is for him to carry out his duties, but now he has more freedom to speak:
‘There are things that I cannot say, not out of any political concerns, but out of prudential concerns of the office. There are institutional obligations I have to carry out that are important for a president of the United States to carry out, but may not always align with what I think would move the ball down the field on the issues that I care most deeply about.’
A lead we should follow.