Does President Obama Need to Be Counseled on "Workplace Violence"?

Several years ago, I had an already somewhat problematic employee wave a piece of fruit as a faux handgun, while mimicking the sound of gunshots. While this wasn’t directed at anyone or anything, I found this somewhat disturbing and, after a discussion with “HR” had to counsel this employee about “workplace violence”. 

I was referred to our workplace mental health professionals who advised me that “workplace violence”, didn’t require an act, or a threat, or to be specific or directed. It merely required an attempt to appear threatening or hostile. 

The employee, of course, objected that fruit is clearly benign and observers shouldn’t feel threatened by what was clearly a joke. Reflecting that that episode, I began thinking of the President.

In June 2008, while campaigning for President in Philadelphia, Obama said : “If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun,” and added “Because from what I understand, folks in Philly like a good brawl. I’ve seen Eagles fans.”


In June 2010, while discussing the Gulf Oil Spill, President Obama indicated he was looking for “whose ass to kick”.


 Now, with the prospects appearing that the electorate has decided that the would-be kicker should be the kickee, Obama reflected on the possibility of opposition control in Congress while appearing on Michael Baisden’s radio show as promising the prospects of ‘hand-to-hand combat’


The question beckons: Does Obama need counseling for workplace violence?  There certainly seems to be a pattern of resorting to violent euphemisms when he’s unnerved enough to drop the veneer of cool.   To be sure politicians routinely use the language of conflict in describing their efforts to attain office or some policy goal, but it’s usually the language of war. Obama’s rhetoric is different. His metaphors are often those of crime or personal animus, not warfare.  

Its not like this President has never expressed conciliarity as a virtue.  He bowed before a Saudi Prince and promised to meet with Iran’s President without precondition.  Indeed, an implicit, but central premise of his candidacy was that his predecessor lacked the placidity necessary to engage the rest of the world effectively and that he would abandon martial rhetoric for dulcet diplomacy.  

Perhaps his bellicosity betrays his feelings of enmity to political opponents at home-while presenting comity with (some, certainly he has shown contempt for Britain and Israel) foreign heads of state and other officials.    

By the way, the employee mentioned in the opening paragraph was, and I presume is, an Obama supporter.