Granted, President Barack Obama has been heckled quite a bit recently. Last Friday, Daily Caller reporter Neil Munro had the audacity to heckle the president at Obama’s own home. During the immigration speech before reporters in the Rose Garden,Obama was rudely interrupted by Munro who asked him why he favored immigrants over American workers. In a deservedly frustrated fashion, Obama firmly told the man, as he should have, to not interrupt him.
While heckling is a downside of Americana for politicians and even though Obama does a nice job of dealing with hecklers by making them look rude – as they are – there was a race-baited cry following the incident.
With MSNBC leading the way, many decried Munro’s heckling of the president as a racist attack. The accusation is simply wrong.
Heckling the president is not synonymous with attacking him for being African-American. Obviously, the policy being discussed by the president is what the heckler attacks. In this most recent heckling episode, as with others prior, there is no sign of the heckler having a problem with the president’s ethnicity.
On Friday, Munro obviously took issue with Obama allowing some 800,000 immigrants to stay and work in the United States. Had the president been a white person making the same decision on immigration, there is no reason to believe the heckler – as well as others opposed to the president’s measure – would have acted any differently. The fact that the president is African-American has nothing to do with the heckler’s discontent.
When Obama was elected in 2008, many believed that one of the biggest social advantages to come from having our first black president would an ease in complaints of racism in government and especially in the Oval Office. But looking back, little has changed. Many have continued to complain about race in relation to the White House.
At most every turn, just as before Obama was elected, people are crying racism. Ironically, it seems that they are crying race quicker now than before – when they are supposed to have less reason to complain about racial inequality in the presidency. Of course, now the complaints have reversed, the president is a victim of racism rather than the originator of racist policies.
If people would take time to analyze their complaints and think back to other presidents, they would find that white presidents were treated much the same by those who opposed them.
Degrading the president has been a consistent tenet of American politics, not restricted to our current president. Whether it was Nixon’s Watergate or Clinton’s Monica Lewinski-story, throughout recent decades, the image of United States Presidents as holier-than-thou figures has disappeared. We no longer see presidents as the perfect, chosen-people they were once considered to be. After public, embarrassing human failings, presidents are seen more like one of the common people who mess up on occasion – sometimes disastrously so.
Though presidential candidates sell themselves to be nearly-perfect during a campaign, they most certainly are not. They are scrutinized to the point that they are expected to live a nearly non-human public life – and when they do anything wrong, the masses are unmerciful. But this is nothing new. This is how it is and has been for any president over the past several decades.
People who claim that Obama is being heckled and disrespected more than any other president seem to have a short memory. Many believe he has received little public disrespect when compared to George W. Bush. And prior to the heckling suffered by Bush, one can think back to President Jimmy Carter during his single-term presidency. Following his election in 1977, Carter received backlash from various sectors of society, including politicians, the press, and the public. If you want to get right down to it, the most severe attacks against a president or his policies were those suffered by Lincoln, Kennedy, and attempted upon Reagan.
All presidents have had persons who disagree with their ideas. While it would be foolish to say that there are no racists among us – black and white – it is also foolish to claim that the heckling has been all about a president’s heritage. Think about it: George W. Bush had a shoe flung at him while giving a speech. Heckling doesn’t get much more disrespectful than that.
About Scott Paulson
Scott Paulson writes political commentary for Examiner.com and teaches English at a community college in the Chicago area. The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of CBS Local.