Is this how you conduct yourself in a democracy?
In 2008, Barack Obama promised that, in addition to healing the planet and lowering the oceans, he would usher in a new era of civility. He would push past the partisanship of the past, ending the “petty bickering that’s come to characterize our politics.” He even won the Nobel Peace Prize largely on the basis of his allegedly mellifluous, trans-partisan rhetoric.
But did he mean he would put a stop to “petty bickering” or healthy democratic debate? Instead of bridging divides, to use an Obama-style metaphor, he has demonized and ridiculed his opposition, with a meanness rarely seen from the presidential pulpit.
Attacking Republicans, he questions their motives, saying that they, unlike Democrats, put party before country. He makes false claims about the Supreme Court, saying they have threatened our democracy by allowing SuperPACs, and then he uses SuperPACs himself. His actions do not match his words: He speaks about how he doesn’t allow lobbyists in his White House, but he created a waiver system to allow lobbyists to work … in his White House.
And, under his cloak of bipartisanship, he tries to humiliate his opposition. When President Obama invited Rep. Paul Ryan to a deficit reduction speech at George Washington University last April, Ryan said he thought the president was extending an “olive branch.” Instead, Obama fiercely attacked Ryan’s budget proposal, while Ryan sat in the front row.
Ryan was disappointed, saying that Obama, rather than elevating the discourse, is actually “doubling down on the failed politics of the past.” Ryan hit back hard:
“Exploiting people’s emotions of fear, envy, anxiety is not hope, not change, it’s partisanship. We don’t need partisanship, demagoguery; we need solutions. We don’t need to keep punting to other people to make tough decisions.”
Perhaps President Obama’s greatest hit in demagoguery was his contraceptive mandate, which, with a cooperative media, created the illusion that the Republicans were waging a war on women, when all they were doing was fighting for the conscience rights of women and men all around America.
And don’t forget that the zen master of peaceful, civil rhetoric is the one who promised if Republicans “bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun.”
Pete Wehner writes at the Weekly Standard that it’s up to Mitt Romney “to shatter the illusion that Obama is believable, trustworthy, a man of public integrity.” It won’t be easy. Read his piece here (two pages/955 words).
Victor Davis Hanson chronicles some of President Obama’s recent demagoguery here. (3.5 pages/1,800 words).