George Will writes:
Barack Obama in August became a Huey for today, a rabble rouser with a better tailor, an unrumpled and modulated tribune of downtrodden Americans, telling them that opponents of his reform plan—which actually does not yet exist—are fearmongers employing scare tactics. He also told Americans to be afraid, very afraid of health-insurance providers because they are dishonest (and will remain so until there is a “public option” to make them “honest”). And to be afraid, very afraid of pediatricians who unnecessarily extract children’s tonsils for monetary rather than medical reasons. And to be afraid, very afraid of doctors generally because so many of them are so rapacious that they prefer lopping off limbs of diabetes patients rather than engaging in lifestyle counseling that for “a pittance” could prevent diabetes.
I wonder how the “temperament” cheerleaders feel now. That temperament, according to many pundits, was the primary justification for voting for the seriously under-qualified candidate. No, he didn’t have legislative accomplishments nor any executive experience. He had written memoirs, not policy books. But that was OK, we were assured. He had judgment and a superior temperament — calm under fire and the uncanny ability to remain above the fray. While John McCain suspended and unsuspended his campaign, Obama was serene during the financial meltdown.
Well now he’s “shrill,” as Will puts it, an angry and frantic figure full of accusation and fear-mongering. The candidate whose “judgment” was to make up for a deficit in experience has made a host of judgment errors — from deferring to Congress on legislative drafting, to believing that the recession changed Americans’ fundamental political aversion to big government, to sullying the White House with a lot of classless name-calling.
Among the many things the media cheerleaders got wrong (Obama’s political “moderation” is the other great canard), the fawning over Obama’s temperament turns out to be one of the most glaring. He is, with regard to his predecessor and political opponents, among the least gracious presidents in memory, rivaling perhaps only Jimmy Carter and Richard Nixon in smallness of spirit. He hasn’t demonstrated any of the promised ability to rise above the fray.
In short, Obama has turned out to be, well, just not very presidential. Maybe next time the voters will see that temperament isn’t merely a campaign pose. It can only be revealed and developed over a lifetime of real-world experience. Unfortunately, now is no time for an on-the-job self-improvement class for the president.