When President Barack Obama spoke Sunday in reaction to the murders of three peace officers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana earlier in the day, he stunned many people.
“We don’t need inflammatory rhetoric,” the president insisted. “We don’t need careless accusations thrown around to score political points or to advance an agenda. We need to temper our words and open our hearts, all of us.”
This from the man who famously told a campaign crowd in Philadelphia back in 2008 when he was running for the White House that he would counter Republican attacks thusly: “If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun.”
Sunday’s remark was surprising because Obama has habitually used tragedies to advance an agenda and score political points. For example, he has made a habit of the very things he just cautioned against, especially where it comes to gun control. After Sandy Hook, after Charleston, after San Bernardino, Orlando and even Dallas, he found a way to work gun control into his comments.
But it’s not just guns. As far back as 2010, CBS News criticized Obama for trying to score points by habitually saying some issue was his “top priority.” CBS headlined its story, “How Many ‘Top Priority’ Issues Does Obama Have?”
CBS listed several including free trade agreements, energy security, education and student loan reform, exports by small business, health assistance to 9/11 first responders, ending homelessness among veterans, hurricane preparedness, flu vaccinations, support for military families and so on.
Earlier this year, referring to Donald Trump, the president seemed to sneer through his remarks that the wealthy businessman and developer lacks the qualifications to be president. Obama’s crack about the presidency being “a serious job…it’s not hosting a talk show or a reality show” brought rolled eyes from critics who point to the president’s penchant for hitting the golf course.
Months after the Ferguson rioting over the death of Michael Brown, the president slammed police by asserting, “Since Ferguson we have seen too many instances of what appears to be police officers interacting with individuals, primarily African Americans, often poor, in ways that raise troubling questions. And it comes up it seems like, once a week now, or every couple weeks. And so I think it’s understandable that, and more importantly moms and dads across the nation saying this is a crisis.”
Recall that early in his administration, Obama ignited a firestorm for comments about the Cambridge, Mass. police following the arrest of Prof. Henry Louis Gates, who was trying to force open a door to his own house. That led to the famous “Beer Summit” at the White House.
The president’s entire career has been about scoring political points and advancing his agenda. For him to caution others against doing that may be the zenith of political hypocrisy.