Barack Obama, National Conversationalist

We hear a lot about the importance of having a "national conversation" in America.  This is supposed to be a good thing.

The only problem is that the Obama administration decides which issues to elevate to that status, and when such conversations are, in effect, over and done with.   

There are some "conversations" that are short-lived because the White House decides they have no legitimate legs on which to move forward. Only months after the conversation on the Benghazi debacle began, Jay Carney leaned testily on the podium and proclaimed to the White House Press Corps that the subject was now  "old news". Similarly, while still under investigation by U.S. legislative bodies, President Obama decreed that the IRS scandal demonstrated "not one smidgen" of validity. 

By contrast, there are those national conversations that are encouraged to drone on and on. Race relations is one of them.  Whenever there is an incident in which blacks appear to be the victim of white intolerance, such as the confrontation between college professor Henry Louis Gates and the Cambridge police, the administration soberly announced that America needs to confront racial  prejudice, starting with a frank nationwide  talk. As the president sees them, such selected incidents qualify as  valuable "teaching moments."

The national conversation about gun control never ceases. Or it pauses just long enough  to load another round  of  breathe  before somebody else is shot and killed. Then follows the usual hand-wringing and finger-pointing, the liberal blame-game directed at groups like the NRA, which in turn resurrect the argument about personal responsibility. 

Whether a national conversation goes forward or not appears to depend on how well the administration's side has been resonating with the voting public. A few days ago, for example, the president proclaimed, without any semblance of statistical proof, that the Affordable Care Act's enrollment figures have exceeded expectations, and that henceforth all negative discussion of his signature legislation -- on which he is basing his legacy -- should be over. Furthermore, anyone continuing to find fault with the ACA is either bucking the irreversible tide of history or using the issue for political advantage. Of course, Harry Reid had already announced that all criticism of ObamaCare is bogus. At the same time, however, Democrats up for reelection are given the green light to mouth off all they wish about the beneficial blessings of that significant legislation.  

Stories in the news can become the focal point of a national debate only if they are  elevated to that position by Axelrod and company, abetted by sufficient media coverage. When a berserk student in Pennsylvania knifed twenty-two people in his high school, there was no national debate encouraged about stabbings as there have been about shootings. In fact, President Obama recently gave a speech in Pittsburgh, not fifty miles from the site of that attack, and never even mentioned it.  

When three people were killed by a neo-Nazi in Kansas, there was no national conversation promoted on the subjects of anti-Semitism in America. Perhaps newscasters such as Diane Sawyer thought it was enough to sound saddened and shocked over the incident, while neglecting to report that two of the three victims were not even Jewish! 

Ted Cruz justified the partial closing of the government as a means of compelling a national conversation over ObamaCare. But what people were ultimately talking about was the closing of the national parks, even if that was not an intended or even necessary consequence. Something as seemingly far-fetched as banning the term "bossy" applied to young girls is justified as a significant national topic of conversation.  In fact, my two grown daughters and I recently I had a very noisy one about it in a very public place.   

The fact remains -- at least for the time being -- that in a democracy, citizens are free to talk about anything they want. If it reaches the level of a "national conversation," so be it. What turns the concept on its head is when a country's leaders decide what is worth talking about and what is a waste of bogus breath.