Still, this is the kind of situation where the people who voted for Obama want him to do...something. They understand the political constraints. They know he can’t do a lot. But a Pope Francis-esque gesture of some kind: As the pope washed the feet of women, would it be too much for Obama to go to one of these horrid shelters and read these children a story? Kick a soccer ball with them? Would that really kill him in the polls? Most liberals aren’t unrealistic, contrary to what you normally read. But they want to see little manifestations of courage from the man they voted for. This is a prime moment for exactly that.Perhaps some of my revulsion is a result of the years I spent fundraising for a non-profit that worked with troubled kids. The philanthropists always wanted us to parade a young person we had helped in front of them to tug their
Make no mistake about it - the children who are the object of these efforts have been traumatized. Its a very different kind of trauma than people experience as a result of a hurricane or other "act of god" - much more personal. Its clear that President Obama respects the need for privacy when people are in the midst of this kind of trauma. I am reminded of what Joshua DuBois wrote about his individual meetings with families of the victims of the Newtown shooting.
President Obama has never spoken about these meetings. Yes, he addressed the shooting in Newtown and gun violence in general in a subsequent speech, but he did not speak of those private gatherings. In fact, he was nearly silent on Air Force One as we rode back to Washington, and has said very little about his time with these families since. It must have been one of the defining moments of his presidency, quiet hours in solemn classrooms, extending as much healing as was in his power to extend. But he kept it to himself—never seeking to teach a lesson based on those mournful conversations, or opening them up to public view.By refusing a photo-op with these children President Obama is protecting their privacy - and perhaps their safety. Can you imagine what the consequences might be of blasting their picture/story all over the global media if they ever have to go back home? In other words, he's putting their needs above both ours and his own. That's what grown-up empathetic people do!