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Floyd Patterson, Call Your Office

In his remarks in Cleveland today, President Obama said so many things that are so misleading that it will take time to sort through the entire mess. But some claims — like “I’m committed to fiscal responsibility” — belong in a remake of The Twilight Zone.

What Obama said is not only untrue; it is the very opposite of the truth. And for the president to warn that “if we don’t get a handle on [the long-term deficit] soon, it can endanger our future” is particularly ludicrous, given that in 20 months, he has done so much to make our fiscal situation worse, from wasteful and expensive stimulus legislation to double-digit increases in non-defense discretionary spending to a huge new health-care entitlement. It is as if the president takes particular delight in not only saying things that are misleading but in saying things that are audaciously misleading.

Obama also has a habit of deriding not just the policies but also the motivations of his opponents. He almost never acknowledges the good faith of his critics; they are people to be mocked, ridiculed, derided. The only reason they oppose Obama is “politics pure and simple.” Republicans “prey on people’s fears and anxieties,” he said today. There is no room for genuine philosophical differences. It is as if Obama believes his ideas are so transparently brilliant and wise and beyond challenge that only the malicious and malevolent can oppose him.

And what is striking is how Obama, under growing political pressure, increasingly feels sorry for himself. “They talk about me like a dog,” the president told a crowd in Wisconsin earlier this week. “That’s not in my prepared remarks, it’s just — but it’s true.” And echoing the remarks made this morning by his top aide David Axelrod — who insisted “we didn’t create the mess we’re in” — Obama in his Cleveland speech said, “When I walked in [to the White House], wrapped in a nice bow, was a $1.3 trillion deficit sitting on my door step — a welcoming present.”

What’s so revealing about Obama is that comments about how terribly unfair life has been for him since he assumed office are extemporaneous, off the cuff, from the heart. For example, neither Obama’s claim that “they talk about me like a dog” nor his statement in Cleveland about his “welcoming present” were in the prepared text. (Here’s the “As Prepared for Delivery” version of the Cleveland remarks.)

What we are seeing, then, is Barack Obama unplugged. He is a man used to being cosseted and who believes negative comments about him are a violation of an unwritten moral code.

“This is more than an inconvenience,” David Axelrod wrote in a memo to Obama on November 28, 2006, in raising concerns about Obama’s thin skin. “It goes to your willingness and ability to put up with something you have never experienced on a sustained basis: criticism. At the risk of triggering the very reaction that concerns me, I don’t know if you are Muhammad Ali or Floyd Patterson when it comes to taking a punch. You care far too much what is written and said about you. … When the largely irrelevant Alan Keyes attacked you, you flinched.”

He did then, and he still does to this day.

It turns out that the president is more like Floyd Patterson than Muhammad Ali.


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