Commentary: Obama's speech in Michigan
President Obama has returned to a theme he used effectively during the 2008 campaign: politics is too divisive; name-calling isn't helpful; labeling people doesn't solve problems.
In his commencement address to University of Michigan graduates last Saturday, the president said, "We've got politicians calling each other all sorts of unflattering names. Pundits and talking heads shout at each other. The media tends to play up every hint of conflict, because it makes for a sexier story -- which means anyone interested in getting coverage feels compelled to make the most outrageous comments."
All true. In our 2008 book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That Is Destroying America," Democrat Bob Beckel and I say the same thing. The difference is that we -- in our personal appearances and in our biweekly USA Today column -- actually try to find solutions to problems. We often compromise, though not on our principles.
Part of the reason for the intense dislike of this president by some on the right is their belief that he used a longing among the public for civil discourse to get elected, but then quickly abandoned that laudable goal in pursuit of what is arguably the most radical left agenda in the history of our nation.
Here, the words of the late John Mitchell, Richard Nixon's disgraced attorney general, seem appropriate. In the midst of the growing Watergate scandal, Mitchell advised the press, "Watch what we do, not what we say."
The same standard should be applied to the Obama administration. The president talks a great game about civility, the corrosive language of politics and the self-absorbed media that promotes conflict, not solutions. But President Obama's policies and behavior and the people who populate his administration suggest he isn't serious. Many in his administration are radical leftists.
Don't take my word for it. Perform a simple Google search by typing "Obama's radical czars." Read their backgrounds. Van Jones, Obama's former "green czar," was an admitted communist. Mark Lloyd, the president's "diversity czar" at the Federal Communications Commission, admires Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez.
One of the president's earliest political mentors was the late Frank Marshall Davis. Is it uncivil to point that out and to ask what influence Davis' activism still has on the president's policies? The backgrounds of other Obama associates, including Bill Ayers and Rev. Jeremiah Wright, are better known.
Harold Koh is a high-ranking legal adviser in the State Department and an advocate of "transnational jurisprudence," which supersedes national laws and, according to National Review, "assumes America's political and economic interdependence with other nations operating within the international legal system." In other words, America isn't special and should be on the level of every other nation. Koh was also reported by the Web site Jihad Watch to have advocated the use of Sharia law in appropriate cases inside the United States.
Does it coarsen political dialogue to mention that people hired by the Obama administration hold radical views that might not be in the best interests of the United States?
If this president were really committed to easing the tension and poisoned rhetoric in our politics, he could start by fulfilling a promise to reduce the number of abortions in America. He has said he wants to do so, but has done nothing yet to make it happen. To many conservatives -- especially social conservatives -- abortion remains the most important issue. Without passing a law, or a Supreme Court decision, the president could reduce abortions by advocating that more information, especially sonogram pictures, be placed in the hands of pregnant women so their "choice" will be fully informed.
On this one issue, the president would have the full support of the pro-life community. Politically, he would do himself much good, while simultaneously diffusing one of the most contentious issues since the Vietnam War.
Doing so would mean he is serious in what he says. Perhaps it's better to listen less, and instead take John Mitchell's advice and watch what he does.
Cal Thomas' e-mail address is email@example.com.