God knows it's taken a while, but the president is finally doing the right thing, for once. Earlier this week, he addressed the nation and announced that he's taking a direct, personal role to address the humanitarian needs of thousands of refugees from Central America that the United States has scooped up near our southern border -- little kids and teenagers, now warehoused in unpleasant conditions.
Here is some of what the president had to say in his address: “Through no fault of their own, they are caught in political crossfire...We’re going to fill some tractor-trailers with food, with water. The churches have asked us if we could bring teddy bears and soccer balls, so we’ve loaded up a whole tractor-trailer of nothing but teddy bears and soccer balls. And then I’m going to go serve breakfast and lunch, and I’m going to help unload these trucks, hot meals for 3,000. That’s what we’re doing.”
Of course, I'm sure you realize that when I talk about "the president," I mean the president of Glenn Beck Enterprises, the syndicated radio and internet TV host Glenn Beck. While Beck was announcing his humanitarian efforts for kids fleeing the gang- and drug-related violence of Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador, the president of the United States, Barack Obama was...OK, I'm not exactly, sure what he was doing.
It's true that Obama has a program -- he wants Congress to authorize $3.7 billion, money that would put more personnel on the border (which is good) and also presumably speed up deportations that would send these young people back to Central America, where there's a decent chance they will be killed. There is no acknowledgment of what the United Nations has found, that many of these youths qualify for refugee status. A show of presidential compassion seems out of the question. Excuse me for not standing and humming the tune to "Hail to the Chief."
Should Obama go the border? Hell. yes -- and he should be in the cab of the truck with Glenn Beck (wouldn't that be interesting?!) delivering those teddies bears and soccer balls, and then hug a couple of kids to show some of the right wing haters that their paranoid fears of disease are irrational. (And it would put to shame this embarrassing Rick Perry photo op.) But then, frankly, POTUS seems to suffer from irrational fears himself...irrational political fears. At times, six years into his presidency, he still seems worried and obsessed with what people on the far right will think of his actions -- people who decided he was a Kenyan-born America-hating Marxist the first time they saw him on the teevee. Why bother?
Who does he think he's impressing with his bloodless reaction to this? Not people on the left -- as you can see in these excellent pieces by Charlie Pierce and Joan Walsh. I always thought the one advantage of being a "lame duck" president was some freedom to pick what's right over what's politically expedient. Sure, Obama could still turn this around...but what we've seen so far is just "lame." Instead, we have to watch the clown prince of right-wing talk radio find the right tone.
And to be clear, I don't think Beck has changed. He's still what he's always been, an entertainer, and only an entertainer, with an ever-shifting moral core. There's no way of knowing with Beck whether his newfound humanitarian instincts reflect what he truly believes inside, or if it's just a bid to get his name back in the news, which it certainly has. His good deed a) needs to watched closely to make sure he really follows through with it and b) still won't be nearly enough to undo all the harm that he's caused. But he's not the issue here. If it was so easy for a talk-radio charlatan to figure this out, why is it so hard for the 44th president of the United States?