After Rep. Pete Sessions insulted the president by telling him, ‘I cannot even stand to look at you,’ President Obama responded with heroic dignity and grace.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) told his Democratic caucus last week in a private meeting that a top House Republican said to President Barack Obama, “I cannot even stand to look at you,” according to two Democratic senators who were present.
The account was confirmed by two Senate Democratic aides who said they independently learned of the exchange from other senators.
The two senators who spoke to HuffPost did not hear the Republican make the remark, but said a top White House aide who was present later told Senate Democratic leaders that the lawmaker who said he couldn’t stand to look at the president was Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas), the chairman of the House Rules Committee.
Reid then told the caucus about the incident on Tuesday and named Sessions, according to one of the two Democratic senators who spoke to HuffPost. Reid also told the caucus that he was “sorry” to have to tell them about it, per this senator, but gave Obama credit for his “dignified” response to Sessions. Reid reportedly told the caucus that Obama responded to Sessions by saying he understood that they disagreed on many issues and he respected their differences.
Sen. Dick Durbin’s claim about about the insult to the president was flatly denied by the White House, because this administration has a policy of ignoring and downplaying comments and events that could be viewed as racial attacks against this president.
Many people who follow politics, and understand the hatred that many congressional Republicans have for this president, suspected that Sen. Durbin was telling the truth. Majority Leader Harry Reid and other Democratic Senators and aides have now confirmed the story.
When confronted with a vicious and ugly face to face insult, the president responded in a dignified and heroic fashion. What President Obama has faced from Republicans is reminiscent of what Jackie Robinson faced when he broke baseball’s color line. The difference is that Robinson was a ballplayer. Barack Obama is the President of the United States.
It is unimaginable that a white president — Democratic or Republican — would ever have to deal with members of Congress insulting them in such a disgraceful face to face way. Rep. Sessions disrespected the President of the United States. He disrespected the presidency, and he disrespected Barack Obama as a human being.
President Obama’s response was admirable. His dignity and restraint in the face of such disrespect is something that America can proud of.
The intentional, systemic Republican disrespect of President Obama will ensure that they will be remembered as villains. Whether you agree or disagree with this president politically, his response to this private insult revealed the character of a decent man who is always mindful that he is carrying the weight of history.
Barack Obama has been a good president, but he is an even better person.
Mr. Easley is the managing editor. He is also a White House Press Pool and a Congressional correspondent for PoliticusUSA. Jason has a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science. His graduate work focused on public policy, with a specialization in social reform movements.
Awards and Professional Memberships
Member of the Society of Professional Journalists and The American Political Science Association