President Obama’s statements regarding the proposed Ground Zero mosque are the latest in a series of indicators that we are at a very peculiar pass: We have a president who doesn’t get America. For the first time in history we have a president whose default setting is in opposition to the general sensibilities of the American people. His behavior too frequently suggests that he’s playing a cosmic joke on Americans’ essential decency, considered patriotism, and belief in American exceptionalism.
You don’t need to have been a lecturer in constitutional law like Obama to know that the mosque’s backers have a right to build at Ground Zero. Polls show that Americans overwhelmingly acknowledge that right. But unlike the president, when his fellow Americans think of the construction of a mosque on Ground Zero, their view doesn’t begin and end with the First Amendment and local zoning ordinances. Rather, their view is of images that the mainstream media has done their best to airbrush out of our collective consciousness: Americans leaping out of windows and plunging — seemingly interminably — to their deaths to avoid incineration; first responders pulling charred remains from the smoking rubble of the collapsed towers; New Yorkers searching frantically for evidence that loved ones escaped the horror. That Obama, as the leader of the nation, fails to recognize that the situation calls for more than a sophomoric analysis that could be rendered by any first-year law student is disquieting.
As Dorothy Rabinowitz has noted, Obama’s alienation from the citizenry is just beginning to be more broadly revealed, but has been on display since the 2008 campaign.The media either failed to report it or chastised anyone who dared notice. When some remarked about Obama’s refusal to do something as simple as wear a flag lapel pin, they were pronounced unsophisticated and jingoistic. Obama’s casual stance during the playing of the “Star Spangled Banner” was declared a triviality. When Reverend Wright was caught shouting ” G–damn America!” those who wondered whether Obama’s 20 years in Wright’s pews might suggest ideological concurrence were dismissed as alarmist. When some expressed concern that Obama might agree with his wife that America is a “downright mean country” and that perhaps he, too, for the first time in his adult life, was proud of his country, they were told to grow up.
Then Obama’s association with Bill Ayers emerged and the mainstream media closed ranks and refused, as long as they could, to even report it. And when Obama expressed unalloyed contempt for Midwesterners who “cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment,” a phalanx formed to assure the public of his pure intentions.
There were other instances throughout the campaign and first months in office suggesting that for Obama, multiculturalism trumps national unity and moral relativism supersedes cultural confidence. His serial apologies for America, embrace of America-hating Hugo Chávez, and supplication to foreign thugs are consistent with a “blame America first” mentality that may be unremarkable for a political science professor but is toxic for the leader of the greatest nation in history.
But perhaps most emblematic of Obama’s self-identification was his proud declaration, before a vast crowd in Berlin, that he is a “citizen of the world.” Most Americans believe that that world would be a much darker place without the United States of America. And they would be pleased if their president could express that belief without being patronizing, self-referential, or defensive.
But to do so, it’s helpful to get America and Americans.