Christie, Trump to Romney: be tough on Obama Wednesday


New Jersey Governor Chris Christie seems to believe that Mitt Romney can surge ahead of President Obama in Wednesday’s debate.

This week on Hannity’s America, Donald Trump urged Romney to be “tough” on Obama, remarking that few people seem to be willing to. Recently Trump shared his view that “Anytime you say anything about Obama, they immediately say, ‘how dare you say that.'”

Indeed, it seems that, to the President’s supporters, no criticism, however mannered or well-supported, is acceptable. I can attest to this phenomenon, having published a call for accountability on the part of the President for failing to adequately fortify the U.S. embassies in Benghazi and Cairo prior to September 11th. My piece was characterized as “ugly” by certain readers, including friends of mine. In my piece I speculated that perhaps, had President Obama attended a few more intelligence briefings and fewer celebrity-studded fundraisers, U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens might be alive today. I took a hard-hitting tone in questioning whether the embassies should have been better fortified. But at no time did I call the President names, or blame him for the actions of terrorists–both rhetorical “strategies” employed regularly by critics of George W. Bush.

When it comes to this President, his supporters, including intelligent ones, seem unable to accept that spirited, aggressive criticism is part of the role of the press and citizenry of a free country. Yet that was an attitude they had no trouble assuming toward the previous President. Regarding the press, when is the last time President Obama was asked tough, hard-hitting questions at a press conference, for instance? I can’t recall a single instance. Of course, he has held very few press conferences recently, preferring to delegate that duty to his proxies including White House Press Secretary Jay Carney.

That a President is being given “kid gloves” treatment by the media and much of the public does not portend well for democracy. Respect for the Presidency is healthy. But it is also natural for political discussion to become spirited and even tough. When the accusation of racism is used to stifle vigorous critique of those who govern, in this case the President, and people therefore become afraid to criticize the President, we have a recipe for a government that is not accountable to the people. While the Founding Fathers may not have envisioned this specific dynamic (characterizing vigorous critics, such as the Tea Party, etc., as generally “racist,” for instance, despite the lack of evidence that any such invidious ideology actually drives the movement), such stigma has a chilling effect on the role of the press as watchdog of government, inviting the corruption and one-party rule that the First Amendment was designed to hedge against.

So this journalist hopes Mitt Romney is indeed very tough on President Obama in Wednesday’s debate. Win or lose, the healthy functioning of our democracy depends on his freedom to be so.

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