I have to admit that my political memory isn’t that long. The first president I remember is Johnson, and I have only the vaguest recollection of him. I know now that he was a sharp political operator, a vicious enemy and a complete fruit loop in his day to day conduct. I start having more vivid memories when it comes to Nixon, who was a crook, as well as being, in many ways, a highly effective (in a good way) president. The media presented Ford as a bumbler, and he impinged only minimally on my youthful consciousness. Then there was Carter — ineffectual, dour and, as it turns out, incredibly antisemitic and self-involved. Reagan — well, the media loathed him, but I never saw him behave awkwardly in public. I’ve since learned to appreciate his vision, his good will to all men, and his capacious intelligence. And so it goes. From Reagan to the inarticulate Bush; to the charming, narcissistic, sexually obsessed, crooked Clinton; to the bonhominous, principled, vaguely inarticulate, viciously attacked Bush Jr., and now to Barack Obama.
Barack Obama was sold to us as “no drama Obama;” as the ultimate post-partisan President who would heal all wounds and fissures in the American body politic. The last year has shown how great those lies were, with his hostility towards Israel and his Chicago-style politics re health care putting the last nails in those coffins full of lies. The man’s substance is crude, bullying and mean spirited.
But I want to pause here to address, not his substance, but his style. Look back on that long list of Presidents from the 1960s onward. All were flawed, many seriously, but each understood that, as President, he had a certain persona that he had to maintain. No matter how dour, insane, vicious, hard-charging or inarticulate he was, each man understood that he had to act with dignity when he carried out the functions of his office. Power politics were fine behind the scenes, but not one of these past presidents, when before the camera, ripped off his shirt and rolled in the mud. That is, until Obama came along.
One of the things that always strikes me forcibly about Obama, and this is true despite his privileged education in Hawaii, in New York, and in Massachusetts, is how crude he is in his day to day communications. Apparently you can raise someone in the Ivy League, but if he’s an unprincipled brawler and a bully, that crude-ness is always going to leak out. And when you have someone like that in a power position, he is often even less gracious in victory than he is in defeat.
This is why, in the days following an amazing political victory (despite the fact that he didn’t sell the nation on his plan and had to bully his own party), the president, rather than extending olive branches, is engaging in the same taunts a back ally thug would use right before he kicks a downed opponent in the head (after having already shot that same opponent in the back).
When Republicans, who overwhelmingly represent the will of the people on health care, indicated that they will work to carry out the people’s goals regarding this monstrosity, Obama did not utter words that would calm the troubled waters in America’s political scene and bring disaffected people back into the fold. Instead, our own Chicago thug in the White House uttered this taunt:
“My attitude is: Go for it,” Obama said. “If these congressmen in Washington want to come here in Iowa and tell small-business owners that they plan to take away their tax credits and essentially raise their taxes, be my guest.”
That’s not presidential. That’s not no-drama. That’s not post-partisan. That’s ghetto thug.
And, just to keep his street creds intact, Obama again engaged in ungracious bating, this time at a book store:
After his speech in Iowa City today, President Obama made a short visit to Prairie Lights bookstore — a small local business in the community.
While perusing the bookshelves Mr. Obama had a little fun with the books of two Republican foes, both whose faces graced the covers.
Laughing, the president held up “No Apology,” by Mitt Romney, and “Courage and Consequence,” by Karl Rove,” in each hand.
“What do you think guys?” he asked the group of reporters with him of the hardback copies in each hand.
Ultimately the president did not purchase either book, choosing instead to buy a book for each of his daughters: “Journey to the River Sea,” by Eva Ibbotson, and “The Secret of Zoom,” by Lynne Jonell.
What a petty little man. How ungracious. Even the frequently over-the-top Johnson; the crooked Nixon; the dour Carter; the inarticulate Bush, Sr.; the sex mad, narcissistic Clinton; and the much ridiculed and attacked Bush Jr. would never have forgotten their role and sunk so low. Apparently you can take the man out of the angry and ugly socialist streets, but you can take the angry and ugly socialist out of the man.