Politics can be ugly. But what happened on the tarmac in Mesa last Wednesday was simply a disgrace. Within minutes of President Obama exiting Air Force One, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer was pointing a wagging finger at him, inches from his face. Excuse me! This is the President of the United States of America. Put the finger away, lady.
Frankly, if I’d been in the president’s shoes, I would have been tempted to alert security and have her arrested under the Patriot Act if necessary. President Obama was more gracious. He ignored the insult and moved on.
Now the Associated Press reports she's using the incident in her re-election campaign and to improve the flagging sales of her new book.
South Carolina Rep. Joe Wilson also should have known better. In Sept. 2009, he disrupted Obama’s health care speech to Congress by yelling out “You lie!" The leaders of his own party made him apologize.
Wilson and Brewer are elected officials engaged in official business. Their behavior should set an example of respect for the office of President of the United States. That they failed to do so is deeply disturbing.
An atmosphere of disrespect feeds sickness and hatred. An atmosphere of hatred encourages violence. Could Brewer have learned nothing from the shooting in her own state that killed six people and wounded 13 others, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords?
If those who are supposed to lead us cannot or will not set a tone of civility and respect for one another, then who will? Political differences don’t excuse a bad attitude.
Like other presidents before him, President Obama faces real threats to his life every day. Presidents Lincoln, Garfield, McKinley and Kennedy all were assassinated. Presidents Roosevelt and Reagan narrowly escaped. And these are just the attempts that came closest to succeeding.
The Secret Service reported in 2009 that President Obama faces 400 times more death threats than President Bush. He is threatened with death 30 times every day.
Just in the last few weeks we note that:
Andrew Adler, owner and publisher of the Atlanta Jewish Times, suggested that Israel could “order a hit” on President Obama. Now he says he regrets it. But what was he thinking in the first place.
Veteran police Sergeant Pat Shearer of Peoria, Arizona, posted a photo to his Facebook page that showed six armed teenagers holding an Obama teeshirt riddled with bullets. He called it a political statement.
Jules Manson, a 2011 city council candidate in Carson City Calif., made a death threat toward the president and his entire family—using the most racist language imaginable. He apologized—sort of.
Such behavior hurts all Americans. When our leaders disrespect the president, it sends a message to our friends around the world—and to our enemies. Why should they respect the President of the United States if we don’t? Whatever happened to civility?
(Bernie Foster is publisher of The Skanner News serving Seattle, Wash. and Portland, Ore.)
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