As one of those "independents" the president has been alluding to of late -- I happen to be of the "conservative" variety -- I have long said to friends, colleagues, and reporters that I believe Barack Obama is a good and honorable person. Period. Clearly, he wants the best for his wife and children, and clearly, he believes his policies and ideology are the vehicles that will help transport our nation to a better place.
While I in fact disagree with a number of his policies, I strongly support his right to try and implement his vision. Mr. Obama is our president and the American people have given him that right.
During his recent remarks at the GOP House Issues Conference in Baltimore, the president stressed, "I've said this before, but I'm a big believer not just in the value of a loyal opposition, but in its necessity. Having differences of opinion, having a real debate about matters of domestic policy and national security -- that's not something that's only good for our country, it's absolutely essential."
I could not agree more.
The president then went on to say, "We have to choose whether we're going to be politicians first or partners for progress; whether we're going to put success at the polls ahead of the lasting success we can achieve together for America."
The president is absolutely correct and I have made that exact point on this site and in major newspapers across our country. Unfortunately, it seems some in his own press shop don't quite buy into his bipartisan philosophy or "the value of a loyal opposition." That, or they've simply forgotten the "value" of basic manners.
As one who has worked as a press secretary and as one who has worked in the White House and who is part of that "loyal opposition," soon after the election, I tracked down the email for Robert Gibbs and sent him a congratulatory message wishing him the best of luck.
No worries. I'm sure he was busy with the million things needed to get done during the transition. Understood. So, I waited until he occupied his office in the West Wing and reached out to his assistant. She told me she would pass along my message to Mr. Gibbs.
Okay. Clearly Mr. Gibbs decided he had better things to do than to respond to my congratulatory email. That's certainly his prerogative. When I worked in the White House -- or just in the name of good manners -- I would have responded to such an email but clearly times have changed.
Soon thereafter, I had a policy question that I wanted to run by the White House press office. This time I decided to lower my sights and reach out to deputy press secretary Nick Shapiro. A Democrat friend of mine had told me Nick had played college hockey so I even went so far as to mention that I spent three of the most painful years of my life trying to play hockey for a living. I was hoping that our shared experience and pain would elicit a response from Nick.
It did not. Zero response.
A few months later, I set my sights even lower and emailed the assistant to Robert Gibbs and asked -- as a columnist and commentator -- to be put on the White House Press Office distribution list.
I take the president's word that he values the opinion of the "loyal opposition." I just find no proof of it reflected in my interaction with his press office.
But as President Obama says, there is always "hope."