Ever since Barack Obama was elected as the nation’s first black president, the double standards haven’t stopped.
Lately, they seem to be on steroids.
I’m talking about how some pundits and Republican lawmakers seem to expect Obama to let the anniversary of the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan pass without him reminding Americans that this victory – arguably the biggest one in what they call the “war on terrorism” – occurred under his leadership.
I mean, it’s not as if they’re going to give him credit for it – or for that matter, anything else.
A year ago today, Navy SEALs killed bin Laden – the al Qaeda mastermind behind the Sept. 11. 2001 attacks that incinerated more than 3,000 people and reduced New York’s World Trade Center to a crater of rubbish and ash.
And for nearly a decade, people here had been screaming about how important it was to get bin Laden – the terrorist who filled everyone’s nightmares.
But apparently, since it was Obama who managed to rid the world of bin Laden, he’s expected to be humble about this accomplishment; to not bring it up in his re-election campaign for the sake of national unity.
That makes no sense.
Yet there was Sen. John McCain, Obama’s 2008 presidential opponent, accusing him of diminishing the importance of Sept. 11 by releasing a video which praises his decision to order the strike against bin Laden’s compound.
Then there were spokespeople for Mitt Romney, the presumptive GOP presidential nominee, accusing Obama of using the raid for political gain by doing an interview about it on NBC – on the May 2 anniversary of the raid.
They’re full of it.
First of all, a presidential campaign isn’t supposed to be unifying. It’s supposed to be an event in which opponents distinguish themselves from each other to attract votes.
That’s precisely what Obama is doing by reminding people that he did something that his GOP predecessor failed to do; he rid the world of bin Laden.
And speaking of his predecessor, many of these same critics didn’t expect the same kind of self-effacement from George W. Bush in 2003 when he donned a fighter pilot’s uniform and spoke in front of a “Mission Accomplished” banner on the deck of an aircraft carrier to declare that the war in Iraq – the country where bin Laden wasn’t – was basically over.
Many of them, in fact, praised Bush’s appearance as heroic; as a “Top Gun” moment.
So now, it’s arrogant for Obama to campaign on the fact that he actually got the guy who caused the attacks?
To the McCains and Romneys of the world, I suppose it is. Yet I suspect that even if this weren’t an election year, Obama’s critics would still expect a degree of deference from him that they wouldn’t expect from anyone else.
That expectation seems to rear itself whenever a black person manages to lead a successful effort in the high-stakes game of foreign policy.
Back in 1984, Jesse Jackson went to Syria and persuaded its then-president, Hafez Assad, to release captured U.S. Navy Lt. Robert Goodman. Later that year, he went to Cuba and persuaded Fidel Castro to free 48 American and Cuban political prisoners.
Yet the one-time presidential contender’s years of freelance diplomacy earned him more scorn than praise. He was lambasted as a meddler; as a pawn for regimes who only wanted to embarrass the U.S. government.
Many critics, in fact, downplayed his victories by attaching silly, unrealistic expectations to them – such as saying that Jackson’s intervention wouldn’t end the tension or conflict between the U.S. and those leaders.
Kind of like the Obama haters who love to say that the Navy SEALs, and not Obama, killed bin Laden. Any fool knows that the president doesn’t physically do something like that; that Obama wouldn’t lead a raid on bin Laden’s compound any more than Bush actually led any kind of air raid in Iraq.
But that’s the way it is. And it speaks volumes when even the black president can’t escape the double standard that Jackson experienced long ago and that many of us experience every day; the idea that our accomplishments are never really ours and that we ought to be quiet about them until other people are ready to recognize us.
No matter if that day will never come.