As far as I can tell, the thesis of this article is that if only Barack Obama had visited all 50 states, partisan polarization would disappear:
So Mr. Obama has not given North Dakota his time. It is one of six states he has not visited as president, along with South Dakota, Arkansas, Idaho, South Carolina and Utah. He has gone just once to Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Tennessee and Wyoming.
Mr. Obama’s near-complete absence from more than 25 percent of the states, from which he is politically estranged, is no surprise, in that it reflects routine cost-benefit calculations of the modern presidency. But in a country splintered by partisanship and race, it may also have consequences.
America’s 21st-century politics, as underscored by the immigration debate now embroiling Congress, increasingly pits the preferences of a dwindling, Republican-leaning white majority against those of expanding, Democratic-leaning Hispanic and black minorities. Even some sympathetic observers fault Mr. Obama for not doing all he could to pull disparate elements of society closer.
This is another in the strained “If only [Gore/Kerry/Obama] was a warmer chap, we’d all get along just fine!” genre of reporting, best exemplified by the “who’d you rather have a beer with” meme of the 2000 election. If only Barack Obama had more rubber chicken dinners in North Dakota and South Carolina and all those other places where dwindling communities of Republican voters hold tight to their partisanship, all this rancor would just magically evaporate.
This is an article that deserves a special kind of mockery, mockery that’s been aged in fine oak barrels for decades until all traces of non-snark have evaporated and what remains is the pure distilled venom of sarcasm and bile, to be bottled in heavy glass bottles, sold at high prices, and taken from the back of the cabinet only when something so stupid comes along that the cheap stuff just won’t do.
Appallingly, it’s not the only such article in the Times today. Another article points out how Obama is not cuddly friends with other foreign leaders:
While tangling with the leaders of two cold war antagonists of the United States is nothing new, the two bruising encounters in such a short span underscore a hard reality for Mr. Obama as he heads deeper into a second term that may come to be dominated by foreign policy: his main counterparts on the world stage are not his friends, and they make little attempt to cloak their disagreements in diplomatic niceties.
The only thing that saves this article from being as awful as the first is that the reporter does actually acknowledge that friendship among leaders doesn’t really mean much. George W. Bush got along famously with Vladimir Putin, and that did nothing to stop Russia from invading Georgia.
The friendship of their leaders is not going to change the national interests of countries, and Barack Obama showing up in North Dakota is not suddenly going to confirm that he is the “president of the whole country.” He’s the president of the whole country because he won an election to be so twice, and as president of the whole country his job is to try and run that country in a way that benefits all Americans. It is not to wander from state to state because some Times reporter whispers “if only.”