In advance of President Barack Obama’s visit to the Standing Rock Indian Reservation today much was made of the fact that it would be just the 4th visit to Indian country by a sitting US President (Coolidge, FDR and Clinton all paid visits previously). So, I think many were expecting the President to mark the occasion with a degree of gravitas.
Especially given the solemnity of the occasion which was a pow-wow in celebration of Native American veterans, complete with American flags that had been used to cover the coffins of the fallen.
They certainly weren’t expecting him to greet the assembled Native American peoples while chewing bubble gum.
Instead, what attendees got was a 12 minute speech after a nearly two hour wait on what turned out to be a pit stop for the President who was on his way to a $32,000 per person fundraiser in Laguna Beach, California.
According to the original itinerary, President Obama was supposed to have begun his speech at 3:45pm, but instead began it at about 4:45pm (the pow-wow announcer amused the crowd by teasing the political dignitaries who were already seated during the interim).
The speech itself wasn’t much to remark upon. Obama touted the Cobell settlement (amusingly,the MC made a crack about attendees not receiving their settlement checks before the President arrived) as well as OBamacare.
The last was an odd thing. President Obama claimed that Obamacare provided access to Native Americans, but that community already has access to government health care through Indian Health Services.
The rest of the speech was the usual sort of platitudes about educating the Native American youth and addressing poverty and economic stagnation on the reservations. Which is all well and good – important goals, to be sure – but America’s history books are full of politicians making such promises.
You’d think Obama would have reached for more during his “historic” visit.