I was having a conversation with a friend of mine last weekend. As often happens with us, the conversation moved from gossip to politics and we discussed the announcement President Obama made on Friday granting reprieve to hundreds of thousands of undocumented youths facing possible deportation. These are kids – DREAMers – who came here through no fault of their own and are often excelling in school but have the threat of deportation constantly hanging over their heads. Because Republicans wouldn’t support a bill many of them previously supported, President Obama took action on Friday and directed DHS to use prosecutorial discretion to stop deporting these young kids and allow them to stay and go to school and/or work.
It’s not a permanent solution; it offers no pathway to citizenship. But it lifts the big boulders off their shoulders for the moment. It was a huge deal to those who care about the fate of these young people and immigration reform. My friend and I were commenting that coming on the heels of President Obama’s gay marriage announcement, this has been a pretty historic and exciting few months.
But as happy as I was on Friday, something did put a damper on the day. By now you’ve heard that while the President was speaking, he was interrupted – I would say heckled – by a reporter from the right-wing publication the Daily Caller. As usual, President Obama handled it like a pro and never lost his cool. I, however, could not say the same. Was I really watching the President get interrupted by a member of the press corps? Yes, yes I was. And for about 30 minutes, I forgot all about the substance of his remarks and the fact that the lives of so many young people would be changed for the better. Instead I was enraged by this lack of decorum and respect shown to Obama.
What is it about this President that causes people to go crazy? I remember people saying some bad things about Bush, sure. But I don’t remember members of Congress saying anything that equals what the birthers in the current Congress have said. I don’t remember any member of Congress pulling a Rep. Wilson moment during the State of the Union. And it’s not as if there weren’t plenty of elected officials who vehemently disagreed with Bush’s policies.
I’m not one to make everything about race. Sometimes there is no underlying reason behind things, other than that people are jerks; you know, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. But when you factor in that you’re talking about the office of the Presidency (and the respect that commands) and compare to past presidents, it’s hard to not come to a conclusion that dances around that topic.
So, I mentioned this on Twitter and I put it to you: Can someone point out a time in recent history when (1) a reporter interrupted a President during his speech — not during the back-and-forth of a press conference but during prepared remarks?; and (2) a member of Congress shouted out “You lie” or some other admonition to the President during the State of the Union address?
You can hit me on Twitter or in the comments. I’d like to be proven wrong. Seriously! I want to be comforted in the fact that this level of utter disrespect has happened to some other sitting President. I want to hear that what that fool from the Daily Caller did has happened before and that there isn’t an unprecedented pattern of disrespect shown to this President.
Until then, I’ll be waiting. With a side-eye at the ready.
Daniella Gibbs Léger, a former special assistant to President Obama, is the Vice President for American Values and New Communities at the Center for American Progress. Follow her on Twitter @dgibber123