We were astonished by President Obama’s comment during an interview with National Public Radio that America is less racially divided now than when he took office six years ago.
In the past three years alone the country has experienced bitter division over the Trayvon Martin shooting in Sanford, Florida; extended controversy over the New York City Police Department’s stop and frisk policy; angst and outrage over the much publicized deaths of unarmed black men in confrontations with police in Ferguson, Missouri, and Staten Island, New York – and the decision by grand juries not to indict in either case; continuing public protests centering around racial alienation; and the apparently racially inspired murder of two New York City police officers by a black man.
According to public opinion surveys, most Americans feel race relations have worsened on Mr. Obama’s watch. And how can anyone argue with that assessment, given what’s transpired?
Certainly the president hasn’t helped matters by bestowing a new aura of respectability on the serially discredited Reverend Al Sharpton, who’s visited the White House dozens of times since Mr. Obama took office and just last month had a place of honor at a White House meeting on race relations with the president and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.
So what could the Mr. Obama have been thinking about when he made his claim of improved race relations?
In a word, legacy. His legacy. With just over two years left in his second term (for all practical purposes one year, what with the 2016 presidential campaign guaranteed to overshadow all other political stories), Mr. Obama is desperate to claim success in problem areas that have long bedeviled his predecessors.
He has, for example, just made good on his promise to pull almost all U.S. troops out of Afghanistan This even though the chances that Afghan forces can prevail over the Taliban and other insurgents is surely remote. (Dare we mention the disastrous results of his earlier arbitrary withdrawal of American troops from Iraq?) Yet he has, after a fashion, fostered the perception that he is making good on his promise to end the so-called “adventurism” of George W. Bush.
The president also has announced he is taking steps to end the more than 50-year estrangement between the United States and Cuba. Whether one thinks such a move is dangerously naïve or long overdue, the fact that Mr. Obama made his Cuba move after he was safely reelected to a second term and once this year’s congressional elections came and went is a further indication that for the president and his advisers, it’s all about implementing an agenda they may have had to earlier play down for political reasons
In the NPR interview, Mr. Obama said Iran could become a “very successful regional power” if it agreed to a long-term nuclear deal. “Because if they do, there’s incredible talent and resources and sophistication inside of Iran and it would be a very successful regional power that was also abiding by international norms and international rules – and that would be good for everybody.”
We wonder whether Israel and Saudi Arabia – and other nations that are targets of the vast terrorist network supported mainly by Iran – would look with such positive anticipation at the prospect of Iran as a major regional player. But the president seems intent on fulfilling the promise he made in the early days of his first term to reach out to Iran.
Which brings us to Mr. Obama’s promise, also delivered early in his first term, to “reset” America’s relations with the wider Muslim world. Will he now seek to push his way to “closure” on this issue as well?