In 2008, Barack Obama won the presidency promising that he would heal our political divisions. Instead, Mr. Obama has been as polarizing as any president in the history of modern polling. The debate over the Syrian refugee crisis illustrates why.
The civil war in Syria has created one of the worst refugee crises since World War II, and the president has instructed his administration to admit at least 10,000 refugees in fiscal year 2016. Republicans in Congress, in the aftermath of the massacre in Paris on Nov. 13, called for a pause in this process, in part because of their fear that terrorists might pose as refugees. The president, rather than trying to persuade his critics, mocked them.
“Apparently they’re scared of widows and orphans coming in to the United States of America as part of our tradition of compassion,” Mr. Obama said. “That doesn’t sound very tough to me.” According to the president, the most potent recruitment tool for the Islamic State isn’t jihadist social media or battlefield victories but Republican rhetoric. “They’ve been playing on fear in order to try to score political points or to advance their campaigns,” he said.