by Ed Lasky
Who cares? Trash talk is Obama's political lingua franca. He relishes delivering these insults face-to-face while shielded by the respect his victims have for the office of the presidency -- a reverence he does not share.
What should be important is how he feels about us: the American people. And how should this impact the so-called likeability gap between him and Romney as election day approaches?
In 2008, Americans questioned Barack Obama's feelings towards Americans. His famous gaffe was the tipoff:
You go into some of these small towns in Pennsylvania, and like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing's replaced them[.]
So it's not surprising then that they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.
Yawn -- everyone knows about that broad-based insult. And everyone certainly knew that Obama's "moral compass," Pastor Jeremiah Wright, Jr., had scathing views of America and toward Americans. One was explained away as a "gaffe" and the other explained away by claims that Obama was never in the pews when a stream of anti-America invective poured forth from Wright -- an excuse belied by Obama's own words in a newspaper interview and by keen investigative work by Stanley Kurtz in his book Radical-in-Chief (pages 320-3).
But Obama's condescension towards broad swaths of Americans was presaged years before, and it has deepened and widened over the years. In 1990, he said that "suburbs bore me." By implication, suburbanites bore him but do have their uses -- donations and votes, for example.
But Barack Obama has never been able to keep his feelings towards Americans hidden for long. Americans don't see the contempt too often, though, because Obama's speechwriters are more circumspect than he is on the stump.
The truth comes out Washington-style: as "gaffes."
There is a stream of insults that has flown forth over the past few years -- and have been all but smothered by the media. That is an anomaly, of course -- because if there has ever been a "man bites dog" story that should compel media coverage, it would be a politician -- let alone a president -- who, instead of delivering paeans to the people, rebukes them repeatedly.
What have these insults been? What do they reveal? And, more importantly, why should we vote for a man who holds such a low opinion of Americans? And why do Americans like a man who clearly does not like many of us?
The Dirty Laundry List
"I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism." Obama must have realized how this might be interpreted, so he added some nice-sounding verbiage, but the deed was done. Bill Clinton had proclaimed in his second inaugural address that "America stands alone as the world's indispensable nation" (italics mine). Barack Obama does not agree -- and moreover, he says we are not a model for the world and in fact have reasons to atone to it. And Obama has assumed for us the role of atoner in chief.
Furthermore, Americans don't think clearly. When the red tide of the 2010 midterms became visible, Obama refused to accept responsibility that Democratic policy was at fault. On the contrary, the people were.
President Barack Obama said Americans' "fear and frustration" is to blame for an intense midterm election cycle that threatens to derail the Democratic agenda.
"Part of the reason that our politics seems so tough right now and facts and science and argument does not seem to be winning the day all the time is because we're hardwired not to always think clearly when we're scared," Obama said Saturday evening in remarks at a small Democratic fundraiser Saturday evening. "And the country's scared."
This was echoed recently by Michelle Obama, who depicted undecided voters as "confused" and "knuckleheads."
People who watch Fox News (the most widely watched cable news outlet -- and one Obama has appeared on, opposite Bill O'Reilly, over the years) are a "little stubborn" and don't understand Obama's policies. For good measure, he told Republicans in 2009 (pre-Sandra Fluke) that you "just can't listen to Rush Limbaugh and get things done" -- as if Republicans just are mindless robots marching to Limbaugh's tune.
Why should that matter, since Americans are poor listeners anyway?
President Obama recently said that the biggest mistake of his first term was not being a good enough story-teller, explaining that he needs to be better communicate to the American people as to why his policies mattered. (His verbal tic "let me be clear" when he prefaces a point reflects the view that Americans need to pay better attention.) Paul Ryan had some fun with this criticism during the Republican National Convention.
Was the animated version of Obama's story about his agenda "The Life of Julia" dumbed down enough for hapless Americans? The Julia fiasco was mocked not just for its approach (the moral of the story is that all one has to look forward to is a life of dependency), but also for apparently leaving some important facts on the cutting room floor, resulting in a collection of "bogus" assumptions. Is this the type of story we are told to absorb?
Many of the stories that Obama does tell us, from his own life story (filled with fabrications) to the auto bailout "success" fairy tale to the broken promises regarding ObamaCare and the incessant peddling of tall tales known as Mediscare, lean a bit more toward fiction than fact. Should we trust a man who shamelessly abuses the facts of his own mother's death for political purposes? As Victor Davis Hanson writes, "[i]f a writer will fudge on the very details of his own dying mother's seeking to obtain healthcare, then he will fudge on almost anything."
Policeman "acted stupidly" when they did their duty and investigated whether a friend of Barack Obama's (Henry Louis Gates, Jr.) was committing a crime. Since Gates is black, Obama commented that there is a "long history in this country of African-Americans and Latinos being stopped by law enforcement disproportionately." So policeman not only act stupidly, but also are motivated by racism.
Barack Obama see a more pervasive sense of racism stalking the land than was evident when he gave his famous 2004 "There is no white America, no black America" speech at the Democratic National Convention. He commented recently that elections are tight when you have a name like "Barack Obama." This is not the first time he has cast aspersions on Americans. Back in 2008, he said Americans might be reluctant to vote for him because, referring to himself, "he doesn't look like all those other presidents on the dollar bills." His grandmother was fearful of black youths because she was a "typical white person," and he quoted approvingly in his book The Audacity of Hope that "white men's greed runs a world in need."
Republicans are "bomb-throwers" and "hostage takers" who sip Slurpees while driving the economy into a ditch. If they want to help, though, they have to sit in the back of the bus. From there, at least they won't be able to excavate moats and fill them with alligators to kill Hispanics slipping across the border from Mexico. Republicans are members of the Flat Earth Society, though, so how worthwhile would their input be anyway? Might as well stick with the Slurpees -- if Mayor Bloomberg permits.
Guess that whole "there is not a liberal America and a conservative America; there's the United States of America" thing was "just words" back in 2004.
Why has the economy been so weak -- fueled only by endless printing of money by the Federal Reserve? Obama says it is not his fault because he believes that "all the choices we've made have been the right ones." The fault lies elsewhere. Someone else is always at fault, but this time, Obama's scapegoats expanded beyond the Arab Spring, Republicans, Congress, ATMs, tsunamis, and George Bush to include all of us.
Americans have gotten "a little soft, and we didn't have the same competitive edge that we needed over the last couple of decades." A few weeks later, Obama riffed off the theme when he said, "[W]e've been a little bit lazy." Well, that is partly true: Obama has admitted in a rare moment of candor to being a bit lazy himself. Others might agree with him about his own laxity.
Americans are not just lazy, but also gluttons. In 2008, Obama told Americans that "we can't drive our SUVs and eat as much as we want and keep our homes on 72 degrees at all times...and then just expect that other countries are going to say 'OK.'" Then he won the election, moved into the White House, and promptly moved the thermostat up to "greenhouse levels" because he doesn't like wearing suits and has nostalgia for his days in Hawaii. Hypocrisy is endemic to Washington.
We have "lost our ambition, our imagination, and our willingness to do things that built the Golden Gate Bridge." Tellingly, when people aspire to do great things, they use the metaphor of a moon shot. Obama did not -- perhaps because he eviscerated our space program, which was symbolic of our ambition, our imagination, and our willingness to do great things.
Nor have African-Americans been spared the condescension. Obama resented calls that he work harder for them, so he told them to stop complaining and "take off your bedroom slippers. Put on your marching shoes. Stop complaining. Stop grumblin'. Stop cryin'."
We are an ungrateful people. When the Tea Party emerged to oppose the fiscal hole his profligacy was digging America into, Obama noted that he had cut taxes (a deal reached with Congress) and ridiculed their concerns: "You would think they'd be saying thank you." Perhaps protesters had realized that the impact of relatively small tax cuts were being dwarfed by the debt accumulated under Obama's reign. New York Times journalist Jodi Kantor writes in her book, The Obamas, that there is a palpable sense of grievance on the part of the Obamas; the small group of people they rely upon reinforce the idea that "the American public just did not appreciate their exceptional leader." We are not worthy.
Even liberal New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd has criticized the condescension that radiates from the president.
And yet the condescension streams forth.
Jews should "search their souls" over Israel's seriousness to make peace -- or at least that's what President Obama seemed to be saying when he pompously hectored a group of Jewish leaders. The man who claimed to know more about Judaism (and many other topics besides -- see "Competitor in Chief," regarding his zeal to declare his superiority) should know better. Jews , if anything, have been introspecting for thousands of years. Hence the large number who become psychiatrists, philosophers, psychologists, and the like. Sometimes they introspect to a fault and become Woody Allen.
Obama has made derogatory comments regarding vast swaths of America: greedy doctors who are coming after your tonsils and amputating limbs so they can become wealthier, "fat cat" bankers, workers in the oil and gas industry, corporate jet owners, Supreme Court justices, insurance companies, veterans riven by flashbacks and wracked by depression... even the Democratic base gets mocked for its lethargy and inability to buck up. And of course, last but not least, there are all those "who did build that."
America is a target-rich environment for our insulter-in-chief: few Americans are spared derogatory remarks and characterizations from the man they elected president. (For even more examples see here, here, and here.)
Barack Obama can dish it out, but he can't take it. He is notoriously thin-skinned and prickly when it comes to criticism of his own actions. His Velcro-attached friend and adviser, Valerie Jarrett, serves to shield him from meeting with anyone who may damage his ego. The spin regarding his bravery in choosing the second coming of the Lincolnesque "Team of Rivals" as Cabinet members has faded along with Obama posters; even New York Times liberal columnist Roger Cohen thinks that these people were chosen for their craven willingness to be "Obama's Team of Idolizers."
When criticized, he complained that "they talk about me like a dog." This whining from the president of the United States. Ronald Reagan faced far worse criticism, name-calling, and insults, yet cheerfully brushed it all off, since he had larger concerns than his own ego.
Why does Obama look down on so many Americans?
Dinesh D'Souza has speculated that an ideological inheritance from his biological father led him to being anti-American; Paul Kengor cites an early mentor, Frank Marshall Davis, who may have led him down the path of anti-Americanism. His childhood in Indonesia and his own mother's influences may have given him an anti-colonial and anti-imperialistic bent -- he sometimes does seem to view Americans as his mother, an anthropologist, might have, as Spengler has noted. He admits to having sought out anti-American radicals in his college years; the elitism and sense of entitlement that are part of the academic atmosphere that he breathed in for years may have played a role (after all, anyone who name-drops Reinhold Niebuhr as his favorite theologian and leaks to the New York Times that he reads Thomas Aquinas while ordering drone strikes might have a hard time respecting the average American. Perhaps the sense of superiority is just a reflection of his narcissism writ large -- the New York Times' Jodi Kantor wrote recently about Obama's overwhelming need to show and tell how much more talented he is compared to those around him (see also my earlier column, "President Put-Down"). Regardless, it's clear that Barack Obama has a pejorative view of Americans.
The Yes We Can 2008 campaign slogan must have referred only to our ability to be swayed to vote for Obama, since he seems to think we lack the ambition and imagination to do much more. Isn't that the Story of Julia? We are soft and lazy and easily confused, and fearful and bitter, and we fear foreigners and grasp only for God and guns. We are fit only to be subject to Obama's derogation.
Why does this view of Americans matter? A country is only as good as its people. If Obama has so little faith in our potential, if he is so certain that America is on the decline (recall in 2008 that he was seen reading The Post-American World, written by his friend Fareed Zakaria), he will adopt policies to "manage" (and some would say accelerate) this decline. He is what might be called a "declinist."
Given his desire to "spread the wealth" and not create the wealth, Obama's goal of redistribution is made clearer. Even more government control is coming. We can expect -- as Obama has all but declared -- a second term that will make the overreach and intrusiveness of the first term seem benign in comparison. After all, declared the Democrats recently, we all belong to the government, to be ruled from on high.
Mitt Romney, however, has a problem. There is a "likeability gap" between him and Obama. Why people find Barack Obama likeable -- even likeable enough -- is a mystery. Have Americans not heard the serial insults leveled at them over the years? Are they taken in by the smiles and beer-drinking by Barack Obama that seem to happen only when a camera is nearby and as election day approaches? Do we swoon over the staged spectacle of the Kiss-Cam moment at a basketball game a few months ago? Is that how America votes?
Have the ever-unreliable media just smothered all these dismissive and derogatory comments, sending them to the cutting room floor to join the stammering and the multiple mistakes (Austrian is the language of Austria, Hawaii is in Asia, West Virginia is near Arkansas) of the president that occur regularly when he is unplugged from the teleprompter (see Bret Stephens, "Is Obama Smart: A case study in stupid is as stupid does" and "Obama Is Not That Bright" by Jack Kelly)?
Aren't journalists supposed to inform us? Don't people bemoan the scarcity of informed voters?
So here is an idea that may be akin to a Hail Mary pass for the Romney campaign -- and in particular for super-PACs.
Most of Barack Obama's insults toward Americans are on video. The media's obsession with Barack Obama and his own desire to be filmed for posterity have created a vast amount of raw material that can be used to compile commercials that reveal how little respect Barack Obama has for Americans. The compilation would make Jimmy Carter seem Reaganesque.
And it would prompt Americans to ask a question before they cast their votes: do we really want to give our vote and show our faith in a man who has so little faith in us or our future?
Or do we want to support Mitt Romney, a man who instead does "Believe in America"?
Karl Rove -- are you there?
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