On presidential criticism

Whether we call ourselves liberals or progressives, we share a common belief that we can guide this nation to a full fruition of both its founding principles and its potential.

Why then must we be a “house divided” over a president we elected, a president who took office under the onerous burden of a previous administration’s missteps?

It doesn’t matter whether this criticism comes from I-told-you-so Hillary supporters or disillusioned Obama backers, the resulting friction can only hurt our common cause and dash our dreams.

As my friend Leslie Parsley and my favorite president point out, it is OK to criticize a sitting president as long as it is done in truth.

In Leslie’s most recent post on Parsley’s Pics, “How Bullshit Gets Started,” she quite wisely rails against criticism based on an undocumented quote, taken out of context if it was spoken at all.

This, of course, is the basis of the right-wing propaganda circulated via forwarded emails – emails DemWit has repeatedly warned against.

A current CNN/Opinion Research poll attributes President Obama’s falling approval rating to “growing dissatisfaction on the left.”

Granted, passions are running high over the deficit reduction/debt ceiling debacle in D.C., but we need to remember that President Obama took an oath to protect this country. Ultimately, it is his job to prevent a financial disaster – a heavy burden for someone who had a greater vision for his country.

If we are to help Barack Obama toward our shared vision, we must not let differences divide us now.

There is no better time to recall the words of my favorite president, Theodore Roosevelt, on presidential criticism. (SOURCE: theodoreroosevelt.org)

"The President is merely the most important among a large number of public servants. He should be supported or opposed exactly to the degree which is warranted by his good conduct or bad conduct, his efficiency or inefficiency in rendering loyal, able and disinterested service to the Nation as a whole. Therefore, it is absolutely necessary that there should be full liberty to tell the truth about his acts, and this means that it is exactly necessary to blame him when he does wrong as to praise him when he does right. Any other attitude in an American citizen is both base and servile.

“To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public. Nothing but the truth should be spoken about him or any one else. But it is even more important to tell the truth, pleasant or unpleasant, about him than about any one else."

-  Theodore Roosevelt in a Kansas City Star editorial during World War I.

To do as Roosevelt says is not to turn our backs on our basic convictions. Everyone from Abraham Lincoln to Winston Churchill to various song artists has talked about the perils of divisiveness.

Focus, people. Let’s stay together.


Lynn said...

BJ, those are very good thoughts.
Nothing will be accomplished by all this back biting and name calling. I blame a lot of it on the blogosphere. There are so many uninformed opinions out there and most readers are not inclined to check for truthfulness.

bbj said...

Great comments, BJ and Lynn. I agree completely.

Tiny said...

Tiny agrees. She has learned to just hit the delete button when such tripe hits her inbox because some people are just trying to stir up more strife. If we don't respond to them, we take the fight out of them. Makes them more angry, but that's for them to deal with.

Leslie Parsley said...

Thanks B.J. The Tea Party members of the House are coming under attack - finally - by many conservative writers and organizations. The criticism of the Leftbaggers has been a little slow as well, but it's a growing sentiment. I love the quote from Theodore Roosevelt and may want to steel it sometime.

Sue said...

Hi BJ, I hope you are feeling better!

I hate the divisiveness coming from the left, it's not helping our president one bit! Those lefties who think Obama needs to bend far left to grant their every wish are delusional dreamers! The man is not just president of the liberal base, so they need to stop with the extremism, just like the right has to calm down their teabagger extremists!

I hope Pres. Obamas second term is much better than his first, God help us all!!