On President Obama’s ‘Kindness’

On President Obama’s ‘Kindness’ December 6, 2013

Last week, while honoring the late Roger Ebert, President Obama said this:

I have my critics, obviously, but since were here in Hollywood, I want to think about something that the late, great Chicago film critic, Robert [Roger] Ebert said — and I was fortunate to get to know Roger Ebert and was always inspired by how he handled some really tough stuff. “Kindness,” he wrote, “covers all of my political beliefs.” Kindness covers all of my political beliefs.

And when I think about what I’m fighting for, what gets me up every single day, that captures it just about as much as anything. Kindness; empathy — that sense that I have a stake in your success; that I’m going to make sure, just because Malia and Sasha are doing well, that’s not enough — I want your kids to do well also. And I’m willing to help to build good schools so that they get a great education, even if mine are already getting a great education.

I found this to be a remarkable statement, for a number of reasons. Before I begin the critiques, let me stipulate the following: Not only do I not know President Obama well, I don’t know anyone who does. So I can’t even begin to opine on his dealings with his friends, family, and colleagues. So I’ll assume that he’s the finest husband, father, friend, and boss. Within the personal sphere he may very well be quite kind.

Politically, I’ll also assume that he has the best of intentions — that he really, truly does want our kids to “do well” and to be taught in “good schools.” Let’s stipulate that he wants good things: peace in the Middle East, quality schools here at home, good health care for all Americans, and fair shot at the American Dream for each new generation.

But that’s not kindness. Especially when even the best-intended deeds have the worst consequences.

Is it kind that millions of law-abiding, hard-working Americans who’ve played by the rules and paid their bills are losing their health insurance because of ObamaCare mandates?

Is it kind to leave Americans behind to die in Benghazi then later lie, repeatedly, about the cause of their death?

Is it kind to leave Americans behind to be tortured in Iran even while making deals with their captors, deals that could lead to nuclear war?

Is it kind to constantly treat your opponents as if they’re motivated by nothing more than malice and the quest for power?

Is it kind to force your own citizens to violate their most deeply-held beliefs by forcing them to purchase abortion pills?

Is it kind when your administration treated certain classes of Americans as essentially enemies of the state, with the IRS hounding conservative groups, pro-life groups, and even adoptive parents through a campaign of persecution and unnecessary audits?

Peggy Noonan’s most recent Wall Street Journal post is especially insightful. In it, she discusses the yawning gap between words and actions:

It’s as if history isn’t real to them. They run around tweeting, all of them, even those in substantial positions. “Darfur government inadequate. Genocide unacceptable.” They share their feelings – that happens to be one of the things they seem to think is real, what they feel. “Unjust treatment of women—scourge that hurts my heart.” This is the dialogue to the movies in their heads.

I would say that we live in an era that values intentions over outcomes — that measures one’s virtue by the thoughts in one’s head rather than by the actions one takes – but this is a very old problem. All the way back in the first century, A.D., James decried this same tendency when he declared:

Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

I suppose I’m grateful that our president at least professes to be motivated by kindness. After all, when one surveys the world, it’s plain that there are far, far worse motivations for leadership. But good thoughts don’t make one good, nor do they make one competent.

Is President Obama kind? If actions speak louder than words, he is one of our least kind presidents.

Read more on the Patheos Faith and Family Channel and follow David on Twitter.

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