November 3, 2012

Richard Cohen’s Oct. 30 op-ed column, “The president who doesn’t care,” was a halfhearted attempt to paint President Obama as the Kennedy wannabe that he never was. To say that the president does not care about the poor, as Robert F. Kennedy famously did, is to write off or simply ignore the president’s career before entering politics.

After graduating from Columbia University, Mr. Obama directed the Developing Communities Project in Chicago, standing up for, among other things, tenants in government housing. Once he graduated from law school, Mr. Obama joined a law firm dedicated to civil rights.

To say that the president does not stick up for the poor and the little guy — the downtrodden — is simply wrong. 

Will Wrigley, Silver Spring

Reasonable criticisms might be levied about what President Obama has accomplished, what he has focused on and perhaps even what resides in his core. But to compare the sitting president to candidate Robert Kennedy — who never even held the office — is absurd.

We will never know to what extent Kennedy might have proved true. But to assert that he cared because you saw it in some home movies and that you don’t see anything comparable in the current president is unfair.

John Bilash, Washington

Why in the world would Richard Cohen want to squander the invaluable privilege of casting a vote — a right for which our Founding Fathers sacrificed so much — for someone he must vote for “with regret”? 

America took a chance on Barack Obama four years ago, but as Mr. Cohen laments, the president is not at all who he appeared to be. Sadly, we are older and wiser now — and poorer by trillions of dollars. 

Isn’t it time to give someone with both governing and business experience a crack at the job? The aloof Mr. Obama probably wouldn’t even care if he lost the election.

Kathleen S. Rochelle, Hamilton

Richard Cohen has it wrong. President Obama does have a higher cause than just his political status. He simply has another way of trying to achieve the goals of equal rights and fairness for all than through the old ideological mechanisms. He expects everyone, regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation and economic status, to contribute and receive their fair share. 

I, too, wish that sometimes Mr. Obama would move faster on social or economic issues. However, I do not believe it is his lack of vision or will that keeps him from doing so. It is the fact that, with the radically right-wing Republican Party rejecting anything he proposes, his hands are tied and he has to choose carefully which programs he believes have a chance of being approved by Congress. 

Tom Shelton, Washington

Richard Cohen contrasted President Obama’s alleged failure to espouse “a cause bigger than his own political survival” with the “authenticity” of Robert Kennedy’s commitment to “huge causes” such as ending poverty.

Mr. Cohen should consider the fact that Mr. Kennedy was a child of privilege, insulated from human suffering and inequality until confronted with them as an adult — when indeed he “brimmed with shock and indignation, with sorrow and sympathy.” 

Mr. Obama, on the other hand, is the son of an anthropologist who lived among and studied struggling people in Indonesia, where Mr. Obama spent his childhood. And he should consider that Mr. Obama went on to become a community organizer among the poor in Chicago. 

While it was entirely authentic for Mr. Kennedy to be shocked and indignant about poverty, it would be entirely inauthentic for Mr. Obama to be the same. Poverty and suffering are not the surprise to Mr. Obama that they were to Mr. Kennedy, and to his credit he does not pretend that they are. This hardly means that he does not care.

Thomas F. King, Silver Spring

I have been a registered Democrat for almost 50 years, and Richard Cohen’s feelings about President Obama are identical to my own. His column was beautifully written, but I almost laughed out loud when he wrote that he would vote for Mr. Obama to keep the Republican “vandals from sacking the government.”

Hasn’t Mr. Cohen noticed that the U.S. government has already been sacked by this Democratic administration? We have met the enemy and it is us, Mr. Cohen.

I will vote for Mitt Romney without regret, and I hope that Mr. Cohen will become the man I once mistook him for.

Doris Eisen, Rockville

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