President Barack Obama doesn't deserve the reputation he's had for his style and temperament and for being gracious, civil, bipartisan and post-racial. He is often ungracious, uncivil, hyper-partisan, race-oriented and vindictive. He mocks and ridicules almost for sport. More than any president in my memory, he often does not comport himself presidentially.
Why does this matter? Well – if I even have to answer that – he is the face of America. The left constantly talked about George W. Bush's swagger and his cowboy diplomacy and how that damaged our "image" in the world and our relations with other nations.
But George W. Bush was nothing if not circumspect, discreet and respectful in his dealings with foreign leaders and his dealings with his political opponents. He was exceedingly presidential, demonstrating an extremely high respect for the office he held and what it represented.
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How the president presents himself does matter for all the obvious reasons, but I believe Obama's behavior and the public's perception of it are relevant for other equally important reasons. He came into office with a reputation for being sophisticated, gentlemanly, above the political fray and open-minded. But it was a facade, facilitated by good looks, a seemingly pleasant demeanor and an extraordinarily fawning – and forgiving – media. He has been getting a pass on his unseemly conduct for way too long, which partially explains the disconnect between his personal likability and the unpopularity of his socialist agenda.
I believe that if the public were fully attuned to how unpresidentially he has consistently behaved, it wouldn't be as approving of him personally, and in turn, politicians wouldn't be so afraid to call him out on his Machiavellian and brutish behavior, the exposure of which would have an electoral impact. If more people understood what I believe to be this man's actual character, they wouldn't – in the face of his consistently highhanded tactics in pushing each and every one of his destructive agenda items – reflexively assume he's such a nice guy who means well. Then, they might be more vigilant, and heaven knows we need megadoses of vigilance these days.
I have theories about why Obama is consistently getting a pass, beyond the media's corrupt liberalism and the allies he's created through his racial and class warfare, but that's another column. The point for now is that he is getting a pass, and his behavior is increasingly indefensible.
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We talk about Obama as a graduate of Saul Alinsky's school of thuggish street agitation, but it is more than just a casual charge. He is Alinsky personified with a disarming smile. It's not just a matter of his having embraced a political strategy that involves hitting below the belt and abusing power to help his friends and hurt his enemies. His behavior is not just a tactic; it's part of who he is. It is apparent that he has been coddled so long that he simply has zero tolerance for any opposition.
Indeed, he is exactly the opposite of who he billed himself to be: "I will bring a new type of politics to Washington." As a committed liberal ideologue, he is neither a uniter nor one willing to consider both sides of an issue. But it's not just his extremist views that are divisive. He is also often personally divisive, petty and mean-spirited.
From the time he cavalierly dismissed Hillary Clinton during a presidential debate with "You're likable enough, Hillary," I knew some cold blood ran through his veins. As president, he has been gratuitously nasty with people who have dared oppose him, and he has affirmatively targeted and demonized entire industries to advance his agenda.
Consider: his command that "the folks who created the mess" not "do a lot of talking"; his endless scapegoating of George Bush; his rude treatment of foreign leaders, from Britain's Gordon Brown to France's Nicolas Sarkozy; his abominable treatment of Israel and its leader, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu; his character assassination of Inspector General Gerald Walpin for blowing the whistle on his friends; his demonization of surgeons and primary-care physicians as dishonest mercenaries, Republicans as "liars," secured creditors as "speculators," tea partiers as "domestic terrorists," Arizonans as "irresponsible," rural Americans as bitter clingers and America itself as being "dismissive," "arrogant" and "derisive" and as having "a responsibility to act" because it is the only nation to have ever "used a nuclear weapon"; his vilification of Wall Street "fat cat" bankers, big pharma, big oil, insurance companies, big corporations, corporate executives, Cambridge policemen, conservative talk-show hosts and Fox News; his snubbing even of the liberal press pool; his egomaniacal behavior at the health-care summit; and his administration's flirtation with criminalizing Bush-era officials for their legal opinions.