Originally Posted: July 11, 2016
President Barack Obama, consoler-in-chief.
The title rang through in the raw emotion he showed after the Sandy Hook shooting. Again when he cheered on a city after the Boston bombings for showing the country how to “finish the race.” Yet again when he leaned on Scripture to comfort in the wake of the West explosion.
And at a memorial service Tuesday in Dallas for the police shooting victims, Obama will reprise the all-too-familiar role of guiding the nation through troubled and uncertain times.
Though he’s a veteran of such mourning, Obama faces no less difficult of a challenge. He must speak directly to those affected by profound loss — in Dallas and beyond — in the midst of lingering questions over the polarizing issues of gun violence and race relations.
Aides on Monday declined to preview the precise message Obama will bring to Dallas. That’s even as White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest stressed concerns about racial disparities in policing and repeated Obama’s frustration that he’s been unable to curb access to guns.
But given the gravity of the Dallas attack — which the president described Monday as a “hate crime” in a meeting with police-association officials, Politico reported — political experts and elected officials predicted that Obama would focus first and foremost on grieving and unity.
“It’s important for a president to speak to the better angels of our nation,” said Karen Hughes, a longtime adviser to former President George W. Bush. “To bring us together. To give voice to our grief. To give thanks to those who gave the ultimate sacrifice.”
Obama comes to Dallas at the invitation of Mayor Mike Rawlings, who has spearheaded the city’s response after a gunman last week ambushed five police officers at a downtown march.
The president will speak at an interfaith ceremony Tuesday afternoon at the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center to an audience of elected officials and law enforcement – including officers from Dallas police and DART police. He will also meet with the injured and the families of the slain.
It’s a gut-wrenching act that Obama went through just last month after the Orlando shooting. And signaling the poignancy of these moments, Obama has often turned to the Bible: 2 Corinthians 4:16 in Newtown, Conn.; Hebrews 12:1 in Boston;Psalm 66:10 in West.
The burden is also an inherent element of the presidency — one that’s come even more into the public view in the cable TV news era, experts said.
Obama won’t need to look far Tuesday for reminders of that fact, given that he will be joined by Bush, his Republican predecessor. The former president — a Dallas resident who will give brief remarks — was thrust into similar scenarios after 9/11 and other difficult times.
“Everything a president does, by definition, is political,” said Jeffrey Engel, director of the Center for Presidential History at Southern Methodist University. “But there are these moments, of course, when they need to rise above that.” READ MORE