Barack Obama Should Name the Enemy: It’s the Republican Party.
Anyone who has watched Obama’s genteel response to his Republican tormentors shouldn’t be surprised at his delicacy about Islam. He resists generalizations and looks for common ground, whether the context is terrorism or domestic politics. No matter what Republicans do—heckle his speeches, impugn his patriotism, shut down the government, threaten a credit default, stage countless votes to repeal his health care law—he refuses to categorically condemn them. The classic Obama line is “That’s not just my opinion,” followed by a bouquet to some Republican who thinks Obama is the devil. “That’s not just my opinion, that’s John McCain’s opinion,” says Obama. Or: “This isn’t just my position. … It’s a position that’s been taken by every Democratic and Republican president,” including “Ronald Reagan.” Or: “That’s not just my view; the majority of Republicans agree with that view.”
Please. If we’re going to start calling out religious and political groups for extremism, we could start at home with Republicans. Too many of them spew animus. Too many foment sectarianism. Too many sit by, or make excuses, as others appeal to tribalism. If Obama were to treat them the way they say he should treat Islam—holding the entire faith accountable for its ugliest followers—they’d squeal nonstop about slander and demagogy. They’re lucky that’s not his style.