…and the Award goes to…?
I don’t know my history of presidents well enough to know for certain if it is in fact Barack Obama…but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t George W. Bush.
“make sure that we are talking with each other in a way that heals, not a way that wounds.”-President Obama, earlier this year
I don’t remember President Bush 43 ever demonizing his political opponents in the manner in which President Obama has done time and time again. President Bush behaved as a president for the American people. President Obama behaves as the president for the Democratic Party (No, I’m not making an argument that he is the most radical, left-wing politician we’ve ever had- he’s not; nor that he hasn’t also frustrated his own base). He has never abandoned his political campaign rhetoric and in so many speeches during his first term, he has attacked those on the right of an issue with divisive language and belligerence. Yet President Obama was heralded/ushered in as The One who would unite our country and heal a nation. The post-racial president who would reach across the aisle in a spirit of bipartisan cooperation.
President Obama has been anything BUT bipartisan in his governorship of these United States of America.
President Bush has been much criticized for his “tough guy talk” right after the events of 9/11- “Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists. From this day forward any nation that continues to harbor or support terrorism will be regarded by the United States as a hostile regime.”
But how has President Obama been more polarizing, through fault of his own rather than through the designs and machinations of his political opponents?
No one has done more in last several decades with his inflammatory community organizer rhetoric to divide this country than Barack Obama.
** Obama: “They Bring a Knife…We Bring a Gun”
** Obama to His Followers: “Get in Their Faces!”
** Obama on ACORN Mobs: “I don’t want to quell anger. I think people are right to be angry! I’m angry!”
** Obama to His Mercenary Army: “Hit Back Twice As Hard”
** Obama on the private sector: “We talk to these folks… so I know whose ass to kick.“
** Obama to voters: Republican victory would mean “hand to hand combat”
** Obama to lib supporters: “It’s time to Fight for it.”
** Obama: “My administration is the only thing between you and the pitchforks.”
** Obama: “I will be happy to see the Republicans test whether or not I’m itching for a fight on a whole range of issues. I suspect they will find I am.”
** Obama: “It’s tempting not to negotiate with hostage takers”
** Obama: “We’re going to punish our enemies”
** Obama: “Those aren’t the kinds of folks who represent our core American values.”
And there’s this:
** “All 50 States are coordinating in this – as we fight back against our own Right-Wing Domestic Terrorists who are subverting the American Democratic Process, whipped to a frenzy by their Fox Propaganda Network ceaselessly re-seizing power for their treacherous leaders.”
Victor Davis Hanson’s target list of those ridiculed and demonized by the Alinskyite President:
African Americans: “Take off your bedroom slippers. Put on your marching shoes. Shake it off. Stop complainin’. Stop grumblin’. Stop cryin’.”
Americans: Are “not a model for the world” and have a “tragic history.” Also, “we’re hardwired not to always think clearly when we’re scared,” and, more recently, we have gotten “a little soft” and lost our “competitive edge.”
Bankers: “Fat cats”
Border enforcement: Its overzealous adherents want “alligators and moats” on the border and would arrest children on their way to get ice cream.
The Cambridge, Mass., police: “Acted stupidly” and, like law-enforcement officers in general, racially profile
Corporate-jet owners: “Are you willing to compromise your kids’ safety so some corporate-jet owner can get a tax break?”
Democratic base: Must “shake off this lethargy. People need to buck up . . . if people now want to take their ball and go home, that tells me folks weren’t serious in the first place.”
Doctors: Needlessly chop off the limbs of diabetics and take out tonsils to increase their own profits
Donald Trump: A “carnival barker”
Grandmother: “Typical white person”
Las Vegas: Where you are likely to “blow a bunch of cash when you’re trying to save for college”
Millionaires: They don’t pay their “fair share” and are synonymous with those who have 1,000 times more.
Nancy Reagan: Don’t “get into a Nancy Reagan thing about, you know, doing any séances.”
Rural Pennsylvanians: “They get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy toward people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment.”
Sarah Palin: “You can put lipstick on a pig. It’s still a pig.”
Special Olympics: Comparable to the president’s dismal bowling scores
Super Bowl: Where you go “on the taxpayer’s dime”
Supreme Court: Would “open the floodgates for special interests”
Supreme Court Justice Thomas: “I would not have nominated Clarence Thomas. I don’t think that he, I don’t think that he was a strong enough jurist or legal thinker at the time for that elevation.”
Tea Party: “The teabag, anti-government people”
How often has President Obama claimed not to be anti-business? Yet continues in speech after speech to express disdain for corporations and insurance companies. He is often demonizing “the rich”, thereby fanning the flames of class warfare while fostering wealth envy and an entitlement mentality amongst “the have nots”.
“Corporations” and “greed” seem to go together in every Obama address. “Spread the wealth around” and all forms of higher taxes on successful entrepreneurs are part of the president’s reelection platform. I don’t recall a President benefiting from so much American innovative business success (Facebook, Google, Twitter, Groupon and scores more) who is so hostile to the concept of the American Dream.
So is this Administration the most anti-business in recent memory?
Yes. No one else even comes close.
And of course it isn’t just the rhetoric that is anti-business and class-divisive, but also his policies which are anti-business.
Remember his Alinsky-ridicule of the GOP driving the car into the ditch? He beat that dead horse metaphor to death in speech after speech all of last year.
Last Wednesday in a speech at the National Women’s Law Center Annual Awards Dinner, President Obama (mis)characterized Republican opposition to his policies in this manner:
The American people are with me on this –– and Republicans in Congress should be with me, too, because it’s right for the country. Instead, they’re spending time focusing on how to turn back the clock. Instead of figuring out how to put more Americans back to work, they’ve been trying to figure out how to take away preventive care that is covered under the Affordable Care Act. (Applause.) Instead of making life easier for women in this country, they want to let insurance companies go back to charging higher prices just because you’re a woman. Instead of working to boost our economy, they’re out there spending time trying to defund Planned Parenthood and prevent millions of women from getting basic health care that they desperately need –– pap smears and breast exams. (Applause.)
That is not the right direction for this country. These folks know they can’t win on the big issues, so they’re trying to make the fight about social issues that stir up their base. They’re spending their time trying to divide this country against itself rather than coming together to lift up our country.
Peter Feaver wrote a very valuable piece last month- one which should be read by anyone who wishes to influence those with whom you disagree with rather than simply alienate and anger:
The result of this is sometimes to moderate my own views, which is what purists fear. But it’s just as often to sharpen the content while softening the edges. That is, having friends on the opposite sides of issues does not mean I have to change my mind about certain policy convictions. But it does make it harder to demonize them.
That, I believe, is essential for fruitful democratic politics — and that is what’s largely missing today. It’s often said, but it happens to be true: When I talk to long-time Members of Congress, they sometimes wax nostalgic about a time when the Members did not rush back home to raise money in their district but hung around Washington to socialize with their fellow political leaders, including those from across the aisle. There were plenty of partisan fights and deep ideological divides in those days, but they were laid on top of an underlying foundation of personal connections and personal trust that was more substantial than it is today.
Second, a consequence of living in such a bipartisan world is that many (in my case most) policy discussions happen with people who fundamentally disagree with you. If you are going to make any intellectual headway in those discussions, you have to be able to understand their position before you can hope to change their mind. This is what is supposed to be (but rarely is) the hallmark of scholarly persuasion: describing the other side’s position fairly enough that an objective observer cannot detect what your position is. None of us, myself included, live up to that ideal — but it is possible to get a good deal closer to it than what we see today.
For professional politicians, one worthwhile goal may be to describe the policy arguments of your opponents in a manner that they would recognize the arguments as (more or less) their own. This is a rare thing to witness; the best example in the Bush administration can be found in President Bush’s 2001 speech on stem cell research. It is, I would argue, the closest thing we’ve seen in recent times to a model of responsible and civil debate, whatever you think of the merits of his decision.
So I would ask: When was the last time President Obama described the views of his opponents in such a fashion? You’ll be hard pressed to think of a single example. And until he can do this more consistently, his capacity to persuade the undecided, let alone those who disagree with him, will be quite limited. And if he cannot effectively persuade people who aren’t already Obama cheerleaders, it’s hard to see how he can lead effectively.
If President Obama read and actually understood Feaver’s post, he might actually gain some bipartisan traction. President Bush has often been touted by his critics as being “incurious”, yet I’ve never seen any indication that President Obama, in any of his bipartisan meetings with the opposition, was ever actually interested in listening to the other side of an ideological issue.
Would it be a distortion for me or my political allies to claim that President Obama himself has admitted to being “anti-freedom”? Well…we’re all political partisans here who don’t hold high public office. What’s the president’s excuse?
If the President- or any politician for that matter- could refrain from mischaracterizing and demonizing his political opposition, I think he will gain greater credibility and a more receptive ear from those with whom he disagrees. At the end of the day, we may still stand on opposite sides of the fence, but at least there was real listening going on and not just heated rhetoric, filibustering one’s ideological worldview, and dismissive name-calling. When you treat the other side with civility and respect, it makes your views more receptive to being heard by those who disagree with you but who you wish to try and influence. The president’s way of doing things is what political partisans do; and this kind of rhetoric only has appeal to his amen chorus political base. He already has their votes.
I don’t believe President Obama is an evil, Marxist, closet-Muslim Hitler hell-bent on the destruction of the country I love. I believe that he, like many fellow Americans I politically disagree with, aren’t evil- just wrong on the issues. I don’t like that kind of talk amongst my political allies; I understand the need to vent and speak in blunt terms if one is standing in an echo chamber; but if one is seeking to influence more voters- moderates in the mainstream middle, independents, and crossovers- to join one’s cause, I think there’s a smarter way to go about it- especially if one is a politician.
I understand that demonizing the other side is nothing new, but…If one is to win elections, it’s not going to happen by simply firing up the base and the fringies. There simply aren’t enough votes in either political camp for that approach. One has to speak in a way that appeals and influences those who stand in the middle of the aisle and brings over those who sit across from you.
Dave Mustaine sums up the nature of the current PotUS quite well:
When asked about the ongoing “Occupy Wall Street” protests assailing income inequality, joblessness and big banks, Mustaine said, “I think it’s really dreadful what’s happening. The buck stops with the president of the United States. He’s the most powerful person in the world. He’s also the most divisive president we’ve ever had. I’ve never, in my 50 years of being alive, listened to an American president try and turn one class of people against another class of people. I’ve never — never — heard a president say, ‘Go down and join the protesters down at Wall Street,’ knowing that there are Nazis down there, knowing that there are people down there who are trust-fund babies, that are super, super wealthy and they’re going down there and pretending that they really care; they just wanna be part of the ‘movement.’ And the fact that that whole protest that’s going on down there, it’s costing the police $125,000 a day. And they’re not raising any money for that. Who’s paying for that? The taxpayers. What I would like to do is really help these guys get organized, but I don’t think there’s anybody there that you would be able to talk to about getting organized. If anything, if those guys wanna protest, protest on the steps of the White House, not on Wall Street.”
Far from being presidential, far from traveling the road high above political mudslinging, far from actually seeking honest bipartisan cooperation, President Obama has been the most divisive president….ever. And it’s not simply natural political polarity, bipartisan in nature. Much of the division has been unilaterally of the President’s own creation, due to his rhetoric and his policies.
Bipartisanship, where’s it’s existed, has been largely in opposition to President Obama’s policies.