My brother Bill emailed me a link to this photo of President Obama with the comment, “Now that’s the picture of a caring person.”
And it got me thinking about the human side of this beleaguered president.
Historians may write of him – as Shakespeare wrote of Othello – that he “loved not wisely but too well.”
It might be too late now to save his job, but he has saved Americans from a second Great Depression and he has saved millions from death and disease by sacrificing a huge chunk of his political capital to bring them health insurance.
He grieves over the men and women he sends to fight – and sometimes die – in foreign lands, honestly believing that their sacrifice is necessary to keep their country safe. And he has been relentless in bringing to justice the foreign tyrants and evil terrorists who threaten America’s security.
He frets over the jobless and their families, enraging conservatives by fighting to keep those unemployment checks going out. And he is using all of his considerable rhetorical skills in a tireless crusade for legislation to create jobs.
Blockaded at every turn by a Republican-dominated Congress, he is finding ways to circumvent his opponents and help homeowners threatened by foreclosure and graduates burdened by huge student loans.
He stands up for the oppressed, including not only ethnic minorities but also those Americans who are discriminated against because of their sexual orientation, religious beliefs and even their gender.
And he has sacrificed the financial support he received from Wall Street when he ran in 2008 because he will not sanction their immoral – and often illegal – behavior.
These battles inevitably leave political scars as the richest of the rich open their treasuries to fund the political hacks who are screaming for his head.
The politically wise thing for him to have done was to tackle the plummeting economy first and with every shred of his political capital, not to set out immediately on a quixotic quest to provide all Americans with affordable health insurance. The risk was clear: Hillary Clinton has the scars to show for it. Bill Clinton had the political savvy to back away from it.
But Obama had promised aid to so many uninsured people during his campaign. He felt obligated to keep his promise.
Now, he is stuck with a stalled economy, made worse – much worse – by the deliberate obstructionism of his political opponents and by the complicity of their allies in business who are sitting on trillions of unspent dollars.
Looking back on all of this, I am willing to set aside my disagreement with some of his policies and to acknowledge that when it comes to caring, there is only one presidential candidate that qualifies for election in 2012.
His name is Barack Obama.