Why Obama Is Standing by the Syrian Refugees


Barack Obama. (photo: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)
Barack Obama. (photo: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Peter Beinart | The Atlantic  | Reader Supported News | November 23, 2015

The president isn’t speaking to his opponents—he’s talking to history.

nce upon a time, liberals criticized Barack Obama for only taking on fights he knew he could win. Not anymore. In 2013, Obama responded to the Sandy Hook shooting with a fervent, if unsuccessful, push for gun control. Now, over the past week, he’s met the nativist hysteria sparked by the attacks in Paris with an impassioned, enraged rhetorical barrage on behalf of the admission of Syrian refugees. He’s done so even though polls show that a clear majority of Americans now oppose admitting any Syrians. And even though, last Thursday, 47 House Democrats broke with him to help overwhelmingly pass a bill that would make admission of Syrian refugees virtually impossible.

Nonetheless, Obama has been unyielding. Last Monday from Turkey he went after Ted Cruz, declaring that, “When I hear political leaders suggesting that there would be a religious test for which person who’s fleeing from a war-torn country is admitted when some of those folks themselves come from families who benefitted from protection when they were fleeing political persecution, that’s shameful. That’s not American.” On Tuesday in the Philippines, Obama targeted Chris Christie for being “worried about three-year-old orphans. That doesn’t sound very tough to me.” On Wednesday he fired off six straight tweets on the subject, the last of which declared that, “Slamming the door in the face of refugees would betray our deepest values. That’s not who we are. And it’s not what we’re going to do.” Then, after meeting refugee children on Saturday in Malaysia, he declared that, “American leadership is us caring about people who have been forgotten or who have been discriminated against or who’ve been tortured or who’ve been subject to unspeakable violence or who’ve been separated from families at very young ages. That’s when we’re the shining light on the hill.”

Why is Obama picking a fight on an issue that, according to The Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza, is a “political winner” for the GOP?

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