When politicians make public statements or gestures from the heart, it can be difficult to know how much is genuine and how much is designed to play to crowd.
That is why President Barack Obama’s phone call to Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ) today was so profound. Senator Flake was on the field today when a deranged gunman opened fire on a Republican practice for the annual Congressional baseball game and wounded five people.
Over the last eight years, Obama and Flake developed a cordial relationship despite finding themselves on opposite sides of virtually every issue. Flake voted against the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) when he was in the House of Representatives, fought to prevent an increase in the minimum wage, and repeatedly opposed action to combat climate change. What’s more, Flake personally blocked some of the common sense gun safety measures that Obama championed and was rewarded by the NRA with $344,752 for his 2012 Senate campaign.
Standing on opposite sides of the issue did not prevent Obama from recognizing the humanity of a man he’d worked with for eight years.
Obama sought no public attention and had nothing to gain by reaching out to Flake, who said the former President simply called to offer his “best wishes and prayers.”
“This is particularly raw for those of us in Arizona,” added Flake, whose home state was the site of the 2011 shooting of then-Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ).
Genuine humanity from the President of the United States should be more than a distant memory. It should not be an exceptional act for a Commander-in-Chief to express heartfelt concern to a political opponent. But this is life in Donald Trump’s America.
President Obama’s small but powerful gestures serves as a reminder that we have done better and will again when President Trump becomes a distant memory.