Commentary Magazine


Obama’s Nastiness Is Not New

The crack Politico reporters have just discovered:

President Barack Obama has lately been getting personal with his political adversaries — singling them out for scorn in speeches, interviews, asides and even in his weekly radio address.

Rather than just going after big groups of bad guys — insurance companies, lobbyists, the media — Obama has adopted a strategy that gives a face to the enemy. By setting himself up against specific opponents, he provides a point of contrast that’s useful in invigorating a base hungry for bare knuckles and bravado — and forces those in the middle to choose between him and his villain du jour.

Uh. Well, actually this has been going on from Day One of the administration. The assault on Rush Limbaugh took place a year ago. And he called the Supreme Court out — with the justices sitting in the House — months ago. In fact, Obama has been vilifying and dismissing Republicans, the Supreme Court, Fox News, the Chamber of Commerce, insurance companies, Wall Street, and Tea Partiers for quite some time.

Well, the Politico reporters say, the president now uses “Mitch McConnell” or “Sarah Palin” by name. It seems to be a distinction without much difference since it was always quite clear whom he was slamming. It does fit the Politico storyline that Obama is somewhat desperate and that this is what politicians do — attack! — when they are in the dumps. But it’s ultimately a false narrative, one that disguises central facets of Obama’s personality: he’s condescending (recall the health-care summit), thin-skinned, dismissive of opponents, and prone to ad hominem and straw-men attacks. That’s nothing new — although it’s nice to see the sycophantic press wake up and take notice.