President of what?

A friend just sent me President Obama’s official statement “on the Occasion of Ramadan.” It’s short on words but long on mischief. It begins with platitudes and proceeds with mendacity.


The platitude:

“Ramadan is a time when Muslims around the world reflect upon the wisdom and guidance that comes with faith, and the responsibility that human beings have to one another, and to God.”

The mendacity:

“These rituals [fasting and so on] remind us of the principles that we hold in common, and Islam’s role in advancing justice, progress, tolerance, and the dignity of all human beings.   Ramadan is a celebration of a faith known for great diversity and racial equality.  And here in the United States, Ramadan is a reminder that Islam has always been part of America and that American Muslims have made extraordinary contributions to our country.”

What role has Islam paid in advancing justice?  None.  What role has it played in advancing progress, whether you understand the word in a technological or a political sense? None.  What role has it played in advancing tolerance?  Ask Daniel Pearl. “A faith known for diversity and racial equality”: absolute rubbish.  And as for the the idea that “American Muslims have made extraordinary contributions to our country,” name one.

Reading this preposterous statement, mulling over the administration’s position regarding the proposed mosque at Ground Zero — a mosque at Ground Zero! — thinking about the President’s obsequiousness to a Saudi prince, his exclusion of such words as “jihad” and “Islamofascism” from the library of permissible words, I wonder exactly where his loyalty lies.  Not for the first time over the last 18 months or so, I  ask myself: “So here’s President Obama: what, exactly, is he President of.


“The United States, silly,” you say.

Well, that’s what it says at  But is he really the President of the Untied States?  I am not, I hasten to add, suggesting that he wan’t born here or anything like that. No I am just thinking about that little word “of.” It’s a complicated semantic package, isn’t it? Look it up and ponder the page of nuanced definitions all of which suggest some for of union, contiguity, possession, adhesion, filiation.

But is Barack Hussein Obama President of the United States in any of those senses? Again, I don’t dispute his title.  I just wonder what, in his case, it means.

It is, I submit, a question that comes up in his case in the case of Obama in a way that is historically unprecedented.  America has had good presidents and bad presidents, popular presidents and unpopular presidents, honorable presidents and dishonorable presidents, competent presidents and Jimmy Carter. Never before, I believe, have we had a president whose tenure is surrounded by this nimbus of disaffection. You might have thought Jimmy Carter was a sanctimonious nincompoop. You never doubted that he was an American, by which I mean not just that he was a citizen but that his essential identification was with this country.

Can the same be said of Obama? Can it?


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