President Obama's speech last night was a strange one. The administration's strategy of speaking out of both sides of its mouth on Syria continues. (This is a narrow, punitive mission...motivated by broad, humanitarian concerns such a mission won't really address.) Stranger still was the fact that Obama gave the speech at all.
When Barack Obama addressed the “Trayvon Martin ruling” Friday, he did more than offer his “thought and prayers” to the family of Martin, applaud them for their “incredible grace and dignity,” and narrate a history of racial surveillance that often leaves African Americans frustrated and even afraid. The president did more than acknowledge that the democratic judicial system had done its work, urge demonstrations to be peaceful, and call for close evaluations of “stand your ground” laws. Obama took a moment where the nation was viciously debating its most cherished values through the death of a child and cast a vision for a better future through other children.
If you’re really into competing blueprints for the federal budget—and we both know you are—then it’s an exciting week. The president released his 2014 budget request today, and for the first time in many years there are White House, House and Senate budgets all on the table at the same time. There are also two other proposals, one from the House’s right wing and one from its left. These great graphs from the Washington Post compare these five plans to one another and to current policy. Note than on the first metric, the ever-popular question of budget deficits, all five dip lower than current projections in just a couple years.
Recently I did something for the first time: I attended the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington DC. Held annually since 1953, the breakfast is sponsored by the Fellowship (sometimes called “the Family”), a shadowy organization with connections especially to conservative members of Congress. I went with my crap detectors on high alert.
Obama embraces both the idealistic and realistic poles of Christian action. He recognizes with Niebuhr that politics is inherently tragic.
The nation's changing racial and ethnic profile will bring political change. But we can also expect it to elicit fear and resistance.