Biden fails as the nation's Chief Citizen

From Civics 101, the president of the United States, in addition to the position's more well-known roles such as "Commander in Chief" and "Chief Executive," also has a designated, but less talked about, role as the nation's "Chief Citizen."

As such, the president's job is to represent all the nation's citizens and to work for the public interest.  As a representative of all the nation's people, the president automatically assumes the role of its chief citizen, or popular leader.  All citizens — regardless of political affiliation — expect the president to work for their interests, not just for the government or people that elected them, as well as provide moral leadership.  Additionally, the president must place the nation's best interests above the interests of any single group or citizen.  In essence, the president's role is to put aside partisanship to govern, lead, and make decisions for the "common and greater good" of all citizens and the nation.

So what, then, was President Biden thinking this past weekend when delivering the commencement address at Howard University to specifically declare that "white supremacy is the single most dangerous terrorist threat in our homeland" and warn of "sinister forces" trying to erase the nation's racial progress?

What could possibly have been his intent in making such remarks — at a college graduation, no less, when the occasion calls for an inspiring message to graduates looking forward to bright futures as they enter their work and professional lives?  What did he seek to accomplish with such bleak divisive remarks as "stand up against the poison of white supremacy"?  What message was he — as the nation's "chief citizen" — communicating to those present?

President Biden — separate from his political existence — has to know better in his conscience.  (Let us pray he does.)  Yes, there are Americans who exist holding such twisted beliefs as "white supremacy."  But those very few people holding such beliefs exist on the far fringes of American society.  The vast majority of Americans — from all walks of life — recognize them as such and do not support, condone, or hold similar beliefs.  In fact, they reject and condemn them in the strongest possible ways.  Those relative few on that fringe are societal outcasts, like those from anti-American groups at the opposite far left of the spectrum who also hold strong, twisted beliefs inimical to the values and existence of this nation.

But the political President Biden has taken sides, ignoring the progress our country has made, and instead chosen his own brand of "extremism."  It is what Americans have come to expect from a politician-president more interested in stoking animosity and pitting Americans against one another for cynical political gain.

The president's remarks at Howard are but his latest in a series of confrontational verbal attacks on Americans holding different political views from his party's.  On September 1, 2022, in a nationally televised speech from Philadelphia prior to the midterm elections, President Biden railed that "equality and democracy are under assault" in the U.S. as he angrily denounced "MAGA Republican" adherents, labeling them an "extremist" threat to the nation and its future.  With the macabre setting (who can forget the eerie blood-red lighting?), it was political theater used as another opportunity to disparage his fellow Americans.

In his recent video announcing his re-election bid, President Biden made further antagonistic claims about his fellow Americans, describing what he called "MAGA extremists," who he said are "dictating what health care decisions women can make, banning books, and telling people who they can love, all while making it more difficult for you to be able to vote."

A pathology has developed with these and other events, where the president's go-to methods are to deride and demean fellow Americans and to inject racial divisions to further separate Americans into camps.  Even his Democrat party seems satisfied with this and backs seeing such behavior, bitterly attacking Republicans as a key to victory for their 2024 nationwide campaigns.

With no sense of irony, throughout his campaign and the early days of his presidency, President Biden made grandiose promises and pledges to the American people of unity and a return to normalcy and civility.  By what possible measure does President Biden, his speechwriters, or his handlers think such remarks as spoken at Howard University, in Philadelphia, or in his 2024 announcement video do anything to make good on his own promises and assurances to the American people to advance unity, normalcy, and civility for the good of the nation?

President Biden is scheduled to give the commencement address at the U.S. Air Force Academy on June 1.  Will this be yet another occasion for him to deliver the same grim message he did at Howard?  Are these the thoughts and words of the president of the United States for a diverse class of newly commissioned Air Force officers, already sworn in as lieutenants to "support and defend the Constitution" and work together in common cause to defend the nation?

Why ask these questions?  Because at Howard he also asserted, "I'm not just saying this because I'm at a black HBCU.  I'm saying this wherever I go."  If he does, he again fails the nation in his role as "Chief Citizen."  (Remember: "president for all Americans.")  President Biden will also have once more reneged on his own promises to the nation to restore unity, civility, and normalcy.  A concerned nation is watching.

Chris J. Krisinger (colonel, USAF ret.) is a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy, an honors graduate of the U.S. Naval War College, and a former National Defense Fellow at Harvard University.  He served in policy advisory positions in the Pentagon and the Department of State.  If you would like to continue the conversation, contact him at

Image: Gage Skidmore via Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0.

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