President Barack Obama is on the hot seat. He’s finding out that he has to be “executive-in-chief” and “negotiator-in-chief.” With that responsibility, he’s also discovered that he is now a target. He is taking shots from the liberals and conservatives, who do not like what they’re hearing. But the bigger concern here is whether the president is facing more disrespect than any other president has. The Republican leadership is not ready to “lead,” only to try to save face with their ideological rabid Tea Party supporters.

The dueling nationally televised speeches this week presented by President Obama and Ohio Congressman John Boehner (R) are clear signals that both sides have dug in their heels, and quite honestly, it’s ugly. If you listen to the president, then listen to Boehner’s response, you would think the two men had not spent nearly the past two weeks trying to cut a deal. In fact, if you listen to Boehner and his colleague on the Senate side Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), it’s as if they have done all the work and President Obama and the Democrats have not done anything. The tone is at best condescending, no less disrespectful and shortsighted. This routine legislative procedure – raising the debt limit – has turned into an ideological, personal battle that is sending the wrong message to this country, and the rest of the world. Would these conservatives have done this with President George W. Bush? His father? Not to mention President Reagan? Would they have walked out of a meeting or not returned a call from the president of the United States? How many more bipartisan meetings at the White House does President Obama have to conduct to convey his willingness to compromise?

Boehner, McConnell and their Tea Party compatriot House Majority Leader Eric Cantor are blinded by their own rhetoric that making deep cuts in the federal budget will make them look like heroes. They’ve taking the same, latent mean-spirited mentality of the Tea Party, and injecting it into the manner in which they’re working with the president of the United States. That’s the same mentality that’s led to rallies around the country where these same “God-Bless-America-Flag-Waving-Americans” are carrying signs integrating images of President Obama with monkeys and Hitler. Is this the tone of civility in America that Boehner, McConnell and Cantor represent?

Let’s put it out there: The uncivil, uncompromising tone of the Republican leadership is focused on embarrassing the president to weaken the re-election of a president who actually is – and has – always taken leadership seriously. He’s setting an example for all Americans – not embarrassing us with rude, inappropriate behavior.

Neil Foote is President/CEO of Foote Communications, LLC, a public relations and social media strategy firm. He is also editor of and a senior lecturer of journalism at the Mayborn School of Journalism.


Neil Foote

Special to the AFRO