Normally I leave arm-chair psychiatric evaluations to Charles Krauthammer, who once practiced psychiatry. In this case, though, I’ll make an exception.
Why was President Obama’s budget speech at George Washington University on Wednesday so splenetic, so hyper-partisan? I have a hunch. Representative Paul Ryan, chairman of the House budget committee, has (rightly) criticized the president for “punting” when it comes to entitlement reform and dealing with the deficit and debt. My guess is that the notoriously thin-skinned Obama was enraged by this. To be accused of being timid, passive, a mere bystander cuts very deep; for Ryan to get credit for political courage and intellectual seriousness (even from his critics) made things even worse. Obama viewed the speech as payback.
The problem for Obama is that he revealed himself to be an unusually petty and partisan figure, particularly in comparison to Ryan. And the narrative of Obama’s being a weak leader is taking hold. What the president doesn’t seem to comprehend is that petulance is not the same thing as leadership. I can’t imagine that many people were impressed by Obama’s churlish attacks.