Obama's polarizing rhetoric

This interesting opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal details President Obama's preferred method of attack; the ad hominem manner in which the president skewers his opponents like a lowly fringe blogger:

A notable instance is Mr. Obama's ad hominem attack on Mitch McConnell at a California fundraiser for Barbara Boxer on Monday. The Senate Minority Leader "paid a visit to Wall Street a week or two ago," Mr. Obama said, and "met with some of the movers and shakers up there. I don't know exactly what was discussed. All I can tell you is when he came back, he promptly announced he would oppose the financial regulatory reform."

In other words, the Kentucky Republican is merely a mouthpiece for the bankers. Mr. Obama added that Mr. McConnell's objections to the bill were not merely "just plain false" but also "cynical"-and then he repeated the attack on motives at another event the following evening.

[...]

Politics ain't beanbag, but most Presidents leave this kind of political attack to surrogates or Vice Presidents. Mr. Obama seems to enjoy being his own Spiro Agnew. A President may reap a short-term legislative gain from this kind of rhetoric, but he also pays a longer-term price in ill-will and needless polarization.

Presidents speak to all of America and they best build consensus through argument and persuasion-not by singling out political targets, cultivating resentment, questioning motives and mocking differences of principle or political philosophy. Mr. Obama's bellicosity is no more attractive than Sarah Palin's attempts to pit "the real America" against the big-city slickers. And his rhetorical method seems especially discordant coming from a President who still insists, in between these assaults, that he is striving mightily to change the negative tone of American politics.

Ridicule - especially when it's the kind of mean spirited, laughing-as-he-pulls-the-wings-off-flies kind of denigration - is a favorite attack strategy of this president. The fact that his far left sycophants sneer along with him is telling as well. The left, as a group, are humorless twits, preferring "humor" that savages their opponent in a personal way to the kind of gentle ribbing of a Reagan. When your opponent laughs along with you, as Democrats often did when Reagan told a joke at their expense, you have achieved your partisan purpose without damaging future prospects for cooperation. President Obama either doesn't know or doesn't care how to balance his attacks on Republicans.

Another thing about Obama's rhetoric; it is curious that unlike every other president I can think of, he doesn't engage in the kind of self-deprecating humor that makes himself the butt of a joke. In fact, he resents humor from the right directed at him. This too, is telling about the man.

All presidents engage in the ad hominem attack on occasion. It's a useful device in this media age of the soundbite. But the length and extent to which Obama uses it is far beyond anything any recent president has done and gives the lie to the president's oft stated desire to change the tone of partisan politics in Washington.

Hat Tip: Ed Lasky

 

This interesting opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal details President Obama's preferred method of attack; the ad hominem manner in which the president skewers his opponents like a lowly fringe blogger:

A notable instance is Mr. Obama's ad hominem attack on Mitch McConnell at a California fundraiser for Barbara Boxer on Monday. The Senate Minority Leader "paid a visit to Wall Street a week or two ago," Mr. Obama said, and "met with some of the movers and shakers up there. I don't know exactly what was discussed. All I can tell you is when he came back, he promptly announced he would oppose the financial regulatory reform."

In other words, the Kentucky Republican is merely a mouthpiece for the bankers. Mr. Obama added that Mr. McConnell's objections to the bill were not merely "just plain false" but also "cynical"-and then he repeated the attack on motives at another event the following evening.

[...]

Politics ain't beanbag, but most Presidents leave this kind of political attack to surrogates or Vice Presidents. Mr. Obama seems to enjoy being his own Spiro Agnew. A President may reap a short-term legislative gain from this kind of rhetoric, but he also pays a longer-term price in ill-will and needless polarization.

Presidents speak to all of America and they best build consensus through argument and persuasion-not by singling out political targets, cultivating resentment, questioning motives and mocking differences of principle or political philosophy. Mr. Obama's bellicosity is no more attractive than Sarah Palin's attempts to pit "the real America" against the big-city slickers. And his rhetorical method seems especially discordant coming from a President who still insists, in between these assaults, that he is striving mightily to change the negative tone of American politics.

Ridicule - especially when it's the kind of mean spirited, laughing-as-he-pulls-the-wings-off-flies kind of denigration - is a favorite attack strategy of this president. The fact that his far left sycophants sneer along with him is telling as well. The left, as a group, are humorless twits, preferring "humor" that savages their opponent in a personal way to the kind of gentle ribbing of a Reagan. When your opponent laughs along with you, as Democrats often did when Reagan told a joke at their expense, you have achieved your partisan purpose without damaging future prospects for cooperation. President Obama either doesn't know or doesn't care how to balance his attacks on Republicans.

Another thing about Obama's rhetoric; it is curious that unlike every other president I can think of, he doesn't engage in the kind of self-deprecating humor that makes himself the butt of a joke. In fact, he resents humor from the right directed at him. This too, is telling about the man.

All presidents engage in the ad hominem attack on occasion. It's a useful device in this media age of the soundbite. But the length and extent to which Obama uses it is far beyond anything any recent president has done and gives the lie to the president's oft stated desire to change the tone of partisan politics in Washington.

Hat Tip: Ed Lasky

 

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