You Can’t Lead from Behind

President Obama needs to get out from behind the podium and talk to officers and the people they serve.

M Jon Adler 31

On July 7, we witnessed the assassination of five heroic officers and the wounding of nine others in Dallas. And we witnessed Dallas and Dallas-area officers displaying the utmost courage under fire, indiscriminately protecting all lives. What we didn't witness was the immediate leadership of  the President of the United States. We didn't witness it because he wasn't there.

Instead, President Obama—our Commander-In-Absentia—did what he typically does when law enforcement heroes are fatally ambushed: he observed and remarked from afar.

To be both fair and clear, I am not blaming President Obama for the actions of a homicidal madman. However, I do reject his didactic scripted remarks, his tendency to show more compassion for alleged criminals than murdered officers, and his long-distance scapegoating of law enforcement.

During his comments at the Dallas Memorial the president stated, in effect, that he's been to too many of these. I interpreted "these" to mean law enforcement funerals, and yet, I can't recall him attending any cop funerals.

Where else hasn't the president been? How about Chicago where, as Heather Mac Donald recently reported, "Violence in Chicago is reaching epidemic proportions. In the first five months of 2016, someone was shot every two-and-a-half hours and someone murdered every 14 hours, for a total of nearly 1,400 nonfatal shooting victims and 240 fatalities." How many times has he gone into the crime-ridden areas of his hometown to deliver his heartfelt scripted speeches?

How does President Obama, in good faith, ever reference Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. when he completely misses the essence of the legend's leadership? Dr. King wasn't the scripted voice safely protected behind the podium; he was a  presence among the people. King unified by peacefully marching with the people. Moving safely in a presidential motorcade from one speech to the next does not constitute being among the people.

The volatile conflict between law enforcement and the violent fringe in low-income communities is not an opera the president can casually observe from the comfort of balcony seats. If he expects his message to have any conciliatory value, then he should visit the volatile communities and help unify and foster the peace in person.

The president needs to meet with true leaders like Dallas Police Chief David Brown and get a meaningful perspective from an honorable man who is both African-American and a law enforcement leader. He should not content himself with demeaning proclamations from afar that we all possess a degree of racism. If he spent quality time listening to Chief Brown and visiting volatile communities, he might begin to understand how offensive his distant speeches are to officers. He might also get a real sense that scapegoating serious socio-economic problems onto us is unfair. 

We as a nation are in critical need of leadership. We begin the unification process with a national leader present on the battlefield. The escalating anti-police aggression is a bomb that keeps detonating, and you can't defuse a bomb by pointing at it from afar. The president blames every active-shooter atrocity on guns, and not the madness that triggers it. He draws upon questionable statistics to accuse law enforcement of racial bias.

Rather than come to the core of the problem, President Obama prefers to lambast law enforcement from afar, essentially blaming all of us for failing to come to terms with our “racism.” Instead, he conveniently ignores the underlying problems that plague lower income communities such as gang violence, broken homes, distressing school drop-out rates, and drug trafficking.   

Gang violence and drugs continue to destroy our lower income communities, and yet we're still debating whose lives matter. What is President Obama's specific strategic plan to unify, and not further divide, these communities and law enforcement? More scripted speeches prepared by writers who were never in harm's way?

We need a leader who possesses the spirit and honor of Dr. King to step up with heartfelt conciliatory messaging and initiate meaningful steps to have all parties work together to defuse the bomb of hatred. Unfortunately, that leader remains absent, and we are left with the escalating conflict that yields fatal outcomes for all Americans.

Perhaps President Obama will consider that herding scapegoats from afar does not equate to leadership. Nor does it encourage unity and support the collective peace.

About the Author
Page 1 of 2363
Next Page