(Cross-posted at Vote Obama 2012.)
Say what you will about what he has managed--or not managed--to accomplish, I for one am glad to have in the White House a man of measured response. Perhaps that is one of the qualities that infuriate those who hate him--and I must say that I find it very hard to understand them--but in my eyes it is one of his most valuable assets. It's what we need in a President. I hear the word "unflappable."
It would be comic if it were not intended as an insult to hear Barack Obama mistaken for a Muslim. He proclaims himself, unostentatiously, a Christian. I see him as having all the fine qualities of a good Buddhist. Equanimity is one of them.
At least from what we see through the lens of the media, biased as it may be this way or that, he manages to remain calm in every situation. His conduct of our foreign relations seems guided by an equanimous view of every crisis that presents itself. He has refused to be moved to hasty action in the Middle East, where our country's actions in the recent past have led us into a quagmire of troubles. Our military actions in the course of his presidency have been undertaken with careful deliberation and meticulous planning. A good Buddhist would surely call our drone strikes into question, as well the assassination of Al Qaeda leaders; but such dire acts may be the inevitable consequence of hostilities directed against our own country or endangering the lives of innocent people elsewhere in the world. I personally despise violence, but I am not a pacifist. Given the hatred, tyranny and oppression that still to this day abound on our planet, I conclude unhappily that force is sometimes necessary. It's my belief that Obama is judicious in his use of it.
On the political front at home, it seems to me, he is equally judicious. His positions are carefully thought-through in advance and presented with reasoned arguments. He listens respectfully and patiently to opposing views and takes them into account. This past week, he has been restrained, in public at least, in his response to the legal arguments against the greatest legislative achievement of his presidency, the health care bill, and the threat of its nullification by the conservative majority on the Supreme Court. One gets the sense that, should this hard-won victory be overturned, he would simply roll up his sleeves and get down to the exploration of another avenue of approach.
The President's response to the media's clamor for his reaction to the racial and political storm around the "Stand Your Ground" killing of that young black man in Florida was a model of compassionate equanimity. Rather than seize the opportunity to vent about the clear injustice of the situation, he chose instead to back away from the political and racial issues and simply express solidarity with the family in their grief and to model the understanding, compassion, and restraint that serve us better, as a nation, than anger, finger-pointing, and hate.
Most remarkable, in my view, is the President's ability to laugh off the increasingly personal attacks that question not only his religious faith but also his good faith as president. As I was saying earlier this week, despite my many disagreements with George W. Bush and, frankly, some barbs I sent his way in my blog, "The Bush Diaries," it never occurred to me to attack him as "UnAmerican," or to suggest that he was working intentionally to destroy this country, as Obama's detractors do. Their hatred seems to know no bounds of reason or common decency. And yet the lies, half-truths and innuendo used by his right-wing opponents seem to faze him not a bit, no more than the attacks that come from the other side of the political spectrum. When he does respond, it is with an even hand, with humor, and entirely lacking in rancor or vindictiveness. He does not allow himself the indulgence of becoming anyone's victim.
I for one appreciate his ability to muster a measured response to everything that besets his presidency, particularly in contrast to the rhetorical excesses and the liberties his current opponents feel free to take with truth. They attribute to him, with apparent impunity, words he never spoke, deeds and intentions he never contemplated, beliefs he never held. That he responds to these attacks with reason and good humor speaks well of him. Another four years in the White House, especially if he gets the support of the more Democratic congress he deserves, will afford him the opportunity to prove the historical importance of his presidency.