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President Obama
Associated Press/Photo by Charles Dharapak
President Obama

Obama’s problem with actual people

Government

Barack Obama rose to office on a wave of messianic excitement that was unprecedented for Americans. It was as though this man, on the strength of his unimpeachable love for the people and for all that is good, would lift the U.S. government to the fullness of its promise and restore us to our collective humanity. And so when the ballots were in, we beheld the dawn and could finally be proud of our country.

Yes, in the minds of many it was like that. President Obama’s wings have melted since then, and with his second midterm elections approaching he appears all too human and not at all the “god with us” his most ardent supporters had hoped he would be. In fact, he has been remarkably indifferent to actual people.

From the outset, he brought before us the sufferings of millions who had no health insurance and he called us to harken to compassion’s cries and pass the Affordable Care Act. But when several million people lost their private health insurance because of the law and we ended up with about the same number of uncovered people, he showed no concern, as though the program, not the people, was the point.

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In the Keystone pipeline delay, the president has sided with the environmental activists against the bread-on-the-table concerns of working-class jobseekers and the tight budgets of everyone who drives a car or heats a home.

The Veterans Affairs hospital scandal is just the latest indication. VA hospitals, though required to see patients within two weeks of a request for treatment, were keeping applicants on secret off-the-record lists until an appointment could be arranged within the two-week window. In other words, to cover their bureaucratic tails they were falsifying waiting lists of suffering people. As a result, veterans who survived enemy fire abroad died of government neglect at home. The outrage has been bipartisan, with even liberal columnists throwing up their hands.

It was a month after the scandal broke and more than two weeks after the American Legion called for VA Secretary Eric Shinseki’s resignation that the president spoke publicly on the matter. And then, despite Shinseki (now five years on the job) testifying before Congress that he is “mad as hell” over this and Obama’s chief of staff telling us that the president is “madder than hell,” the president delivered a public statement couched in conditional qualifiers that signaled he is unconvinced there is any wrongdoing in the VA system.

Nonetheless, he stated firmly, “Once we know the facts, I assure you if there is misconduct it will be punished.” But that’s what he said about the people who murdered our ambassador in Benghazi. As in that case, we have no reason to believe these assurances are anything but political deflections.

Obama’s wing of the Democratic Party has never been keen on the U.S. military, but these vets are a cross section of the American people, drawn from every state, representing all ages and every race, Democrats and Republicans.

Perhaps from the start Obama has been all about Obama. He made his statement by rising to the presidency. He won the Nobel Peace Prize just for being himself and winning the White House. He did not refuse it. Having given us himself, he has given us everything. But he gave us Obamacare as well. Is it ungrateful of us also to ask for a vibrant economy and just treatment by our government as well?

D.C. Innes
D.C. Innes

D.C. is associate professor of politics at The King's College in New York City and co-author of Left, Right, and Christ: Evangelical Faith in Politics (Russell Media). Follow D.C. on Twitter @DCInnes1.

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