Leaders have to earn the right to criticize their own team. If you’re a winning quarterback who has sacrificed tremendously and succeeded — if nobody can doubt that you believe your team and your teammates are the best — then you have earned the right to call your guys out. It’s why Kobe Bryant and Tom Brady can get away with yelling at their teammates while DeMarcus Cousins can’t.
Obama has been more frank than any president in modern history in admitting to America’s mistakes. His fans love this about him — he’s a clear-eyed pragmatist who isn’t afraid to apply rigor to analyzing the faults of himself and his countrymen, the president’s supporters say. Maybe. But as a result, in the eyes of millions of conservatives, Obama has hardly built up a reservoir of trust that would grant him the moral authority to deliver Americans and Christians a scolding message about injustices in their collective pasts. My liberal friends might disagree — and claim that Obama’s introspection and candor make him the perfect messenger for self-reflective realism — but the many Americans and Christians who find themselves on the wrong side of these criticisms would surely not give the president the benefit of the doubt. Fair or not, a Republican with a flag lapel pin is probably better positioned to challenge Americans and have this moment of reflection. The saying “only Nixon can go to China” is an apt one. Nixon’s anti-Communism bonafides were beyond reproach — nobody would expect him to go soft on the red menace — a fact that gave him the space to do the unexpected and to reach out to China. It may not be fair, but it’s much harder for a Democrat to pull of this kind of maneuver, and this is likely especially true of Obama.