During the 2008 campaign Obama-spinners and nearly the entire press corps (I repeat myself) bandied about the notion that what the candidate lacked in experience (none when it came to running anything other than the Harvard Law Review) he made up in superior temperament. He was cool, calm, unflappable — a sort of Mr. Spock who put rationality above emotion. Has there ever been a worst case of false advertising?
Throughout his presidency Barack Obama has shown himself to be thin-skinned and cranky (be it with regard to the Chamber of Commerce, Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, town-hall protesters, Wall Street). His ire when met with opposition (even from his own party) has been displayed in White House news conferences on a regular basis. Republicans were “holding the country hostage” last December (but then he caved on the Bush tax cuts), and now we’ve got to eat our peas. And heaven help House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) if he thinks he is going to forcefully advocate for his side.
ABC News’s Jake Tapper narrates the scene:
“Don’t call my bluff,” the president said. “I am not afraid to veto and I will take it to the American people.”
If Moody’s, the credit rating agency that announced a review of U.S. credit, downgrades the United States, President Obama said, “it will be a tax increase on every American.”
There needs to be a long-term debt extension, the president argued.
“This may bring my presidency down, but I will not yield on this,” he said.
Then he stood up.
“Enough is enough,” the president insisted. “We have to be willing to compromise. It shouldn’t be about positioning and politics, and I’ll see you all tomorrow.”
Then he left the room.
And if you think Grandma is going to get her Social Security check should the Republicans defy Obama, think again.
Aside from the unintended hilarity of challenging Cantor to “call his bluff” ( an admission against interest?) this certainly dispels the idea that Obama is the “adult”in the room.
It is interesting that as this is all going on, the New York Times tells us about a new book from one of its reporters:
During his presidential campaign and subsequent battle over a health care law, Mr. Obama quieted crowds with the story of his mother’s fight with her insurer over whether her cancer was a pre-existing condition that disqualified her from coverage.
In offering the story as an argument for ending pre-existing condition exclusions by health insurers, the president left the clear impression that his mother’s fight was over health benefits for medical expenses.
But in “A Singular Woman: The Untold Story of Barack Obama’s Mother,” author Janny Scott quotes from correspondence from the president’s mother to assert that the 1995 dispute concerned a Cigna disability insurance policy and that her actual health insurer had apparently reimbursed most of her medical expenses without argument.
Most people would recoil at the lie, and moreover the use of Obama’s dead mother as a prop in his myth-making. But Obama made a career of, and lifted himself to the presidency, on the fusion of myth and reality, perhaps losing track along the way of which was which. (“‘The book is so literary,’ said Arnold Rampersad, a professor of English at Stanford University who teaches autobiography and is the author of a recent biography of Ralph Ellison. ‘It is so full of clever tricks — inventions for literary effect — that I was taken aback, even astonished. But make no mistake, these are simply the tricks that art trades in, and out of these tricks is supposed to come our realization of truth.’”)
And now, when the chips are down and his presidency hangs in the balance, we see how this all plays out. Obama paints himself in heroic terms, decries his opponents as operating in bad faith, finds details inconvenient ( House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) characterizes the presidency slipperiness as “Jell-o”) and seems to have qualms about saying one thing in public (he’s offering entitlement cuts) and another in private (where are they?). “Facts” are used as an instrument (the tax hikes are only about millionaires and corporate jets) for getting his way.
Obama, as we saw in the health-care forum when Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) took on the specifics of his health-care plan, isn’t all that comfortable or effective in unscripted moments when forced to argue on the merits. He resorts to name-calling (“the election is over”). And he insists on saying things that just aren’t so (e.g. you can keep your health-care plan under Obamacare). That’s been his style from the time he started campaigning (“you’re likable enough, Hillary”) up to the present. It’s not pretty to watch, and it certainly doesn’t live up to his billing as a man more heroic and honest than us mere mortals.