I wasn’t going to comment on this until two of my many clueless Facebook friends had to mock an indignant article about it on a conservative site. I don’t think Obama skipping Nancy Reagan’s funeral is worthy of outrage, but it is sad. It’s almost as sad as the degree to which the people who elected him have never comprehended what his job is.
Obama is not attending Nancy’s funeral because he was previously committed to attend a vital event called South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive festival. Michelle Obama will speak at the funeral, but she is also speaking at the festival, making it obvious that the President could also do both if he wanted to. He doesn’t want to, just as he didn’t want to show respect to a sitting Supreme Court Justice who had died suddenly by attending his funeral.
That’s Obama; we should know him by now. He’s a petty, small man, but more important, he doesn’t seize opportunities to repair the poisonous partisan divide that he helped create because he doesn’t understand the symbolic nature of the Presidency, or just doesn’t give a damn. That attitude—I think both are true— has played a major role in creating the non-functioning government and the societal divisions he will leave as his primary legacy.
Personally, Nancy Reagan means nothing to me, but many, many Republicans and conservatives revered her, in great part because of her support and loyalty to her iconic husband. Republicans would have greatly appreciated Obama honoring her with his office and all it represents, and his attendance could have opened an opportunity for dialogue with Congressional leaders about the large number of issues that require bi-partisan accord. Republicans in Congress assume Obama knows how much they care about the Reagans, and so his absence will be taken as an intentional snub, which in context it is.
“There’s precedent for Presidents not attending former First Ladies’ funerals” wrote one of my Cluelesses, missing the point. This isn’t any First Lady, it’s Ronald Reagan’s wife. That fills the event with historical and political significance, and the fact that Obama supporters (many of my friends sniffing at conservative annoyance at Obama’s snub are gay, and gays tend to detest the Reagans) don’t care is completely irrelevant, or should be, to Obama’s decision whether his attendance at the funeral is appropriate.
This was an opportunity to build bridges. The President shouldn’t attend because of any reasons but politics and the importance of doing his job, but he has learned nothing about Presidential leadership. I guarantee you that Lyndon Johnson would have gone under these circumstances. Bill Clinton too: say what you will about the former Sexual Predator in Chief, Bill knew how to soften up the opposition. Ronald Reagan also would have naturally seen the opportunity here, and exploited it. Those men, and others, knew how to be effective Presidents. They would have attended the funeral of Jeffery Daumer if they thought it would get a bill passed.
Fortunately for Obama, but unfortunately for the nation, his self-destructive pettiness has spawned a generation of equally petty and politically ignorant Democrats, who would rather see him symbolically tell Republicans and conservatives that their heroes mean squat to him than have him build useful alliances with politicians they detest. I don’t know if President Trump, Clinton, Sanders or Cruz will be any more competent in this critical leadership skill, but they couldn’t possibly be any worse.