By Kevin Binversie | Wisconsin Reporter
One person will be missing from the White House delegation that arrives Thursday to mourn with the Sikh community of Oak Creek: President Barack Obama himself.
That’s a change from White House protocol after another recent mass shooting in the United States, when alleged gunman James Holmes killed 12 and injured 58 in a rampage at a midnight screening of “The Dark Knight Rises” in Aurora, Colo. In that case, the president and first lady made the trip and visited with survivors in their hospital beds and grieved privately with the family members of the slain.
At an Aug.10 public memorial for those slain in the Oak Creek shooting, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder represented the Obama administration.
Members of the Sikh community are more than willing to welcome the first lady, whose visit Thursday will be a private one. Media cameras have been asked to stay away and allow for the healing in the community to continue.
Balhair Dulai, an elder at the Sikh Temple, relayed that message.
“We are very pleased to have the first lady come and help our community heal,” said Dulai. “While some may focus on the absence of (President) Obama, we realize it would be a security headache to have the president here.”
Meanwhile, two of the three victims of the shooting remain hospitalized. Punjab Singh, 65, is in critical condition, while Oak Creek Police Lt. Brian Murphy, 51, is in stable condition. Last week, Santokh Singh, 50, was released from Froedtert Hospital in Milwaukee.
But the absence of the president on the trip and to the state hasn’t gone unnoticed by other Sikhs. Last week, the son of one of the victims openly wondered why both President Obama and presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney had not visited.
The last time President Obama visited the Badger State was in February. At the time, he toured Masterlock in Milwaukee and extolled the virtues of insourcing and how it could revitalize the manufacturing sector of not just Wisconsin, but the rest of the nation.
Since then, he’s been a both a literal and figurative no-show.
At the height of this summer’s attempted recall against Gov. Scott Walker, the closest President Obama could get to coming to Wisconsin were fundraisers in Minneapolis and Chicago. To get to those events, the president literally flew over the state — twice in one day.
The best the president could do during the recall was to send a tweet of support to Democratic challenger Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett on election eve.
It’s easy to believe that the president’s campaign team didn’t want him tagged with the Democratic Party of Wisconsin’s recall debacle. But his absence even from such events as those in Oak Creek is perplexing. In the past, memorial services have allowed a sitting president to act as “Mourner-in-Chief” without giving it the appearance of “Campaigner-in-Chief.”
But the president’s Wisconsin no-show streak goes on, six months and counting — a long, long time in presidential politics.
Veteran political blogger Kevin Binversie is a Wisconsin native. He served in the George W. Bush administration from 2007-2009, worked at the Heritage Foundation and has worked on numerous state Republican campaigns, most recently as research director for Ron Johnson for Senate. Contact him at [email protected].