White House Press Secretary Jay Carney has faced a lot of questions in the last few weeks about the virtually indistinguishable line between President Obama as candidate and President Obama as president. And his answers have been pretty weak. So weak, in fact, that ABC’s actual journalist on staff, Jake Tapper, commented that Obama has become a campaigner in chief.
Now, to cut Carney a little slack, I don’t think Obama ever transitioned to being president from being a campaigner after the 2008 election. His administration has been led by “community organizing” and faction-building rather than consensus driven or unity minded. Obama’s policy speeches, his State of the Union Addresses, his few press briefings, even his memorial speeches have all had the air of a campaign rally – the bitterness, the division, the strident dismissal of his political opponents.
And now, we can add commencement address at a tornado-ravaged school to the list. At least I sure see quite a few lines in this speech that don’t seem to be too much about inspiring greatness in young people nearly as much as reiterating campaign talking points and themes from his re-elect mission. Take a look and decide for yourself:
On Monday, President Obama gave the commencement address at Joplin High School in Joplin, Missouri. Just hours after last year’s graduation ceremony, the school was destroyed by a massive tornado that claimed the lives of one graduate and 160 others in Joplin.
Several passages of Obama's speech contained similar language to what the president has said on the campaign trail. Obama used language like "greed" and told the graduates "we’re stronger together than we are on our own."
"As you begin the next stage in your journey, wherever you’re going, whatever you’re doing, it’s safe to say you will encounter greed and selfishness, and ignorance and cruelty, sometimes just bad luck. You’ll meet people who try to build themselves up by tearing others down. You’ll meet people who believe that looking after others is only for suckers," Obama said.
"And so, my deepest hope for all of you is that as you begin this new chapter in your life, you’ll bring that spirit of Joplin to every place you travel, to everything you do. You can serve as a reminder that we’re not meant to walk this road alone, that we’re not expected to face down adversity by ourselves. We need God. We need each other. We are important to each other and we’re stronger together than we are on our own," Obama also said to the graduates.
Obama also told the students that "America only succeeds where we all pitch in and pull together," a message similar to campaign rhetoric he used earlier this year.
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Obviously there’s nothing “wrong” with the words here. There’s nothing wrong with talking about the importance of loving and caring for each other. But there is something wrong with using a message to people who understand the personal nature of those ideas and warping it into an endorsement of socialist economic policies of redistributing wealth.
People can stand together in their private enterprise, without government as the great organizer. Spontaneous charity and church charity is what the story of Joplin is all about. And where the government has been useful, it is still quite a leap to compare government assistance after a tragedy to a government-planned economy. But that’s not too much for Obama. Maybe it’s not his fault. This is who this guy is – and he’s never been presidential material. It remains to be seen whether the electorate gets that straight and corrects their mistake.