Guy Benson

What angers Barack Obama?

The answer to this question may not be entirely clear, but at least a partial answer lies within the pages of the current New Yorker magazine. The controversial edition has generated far more attention for the political cartoon on its cover than for the content of the accompanying article. This often overlooked cover story includes two telling anecdotes. One story recounts Obama's explosive reaction to being "embarrassed" on the floor of the Illinois state legislature, and the other explores Obama's tepid reaction to the carnage of September 11, 2001. Both stories illustrate Obama's tendency to reserve his harshest attacks for perceived political affronts while treating true outrages with heavy doses of nuance.

According to the New Yorker article, State Senator Barack Obama ignited a verbal dispute with a colleague during a 1997 legislative session in Springfield. Obama had "accidentally" voted against a child welfare bill, and a political rival rose to criticize Obama's vote. Obama didn't take kindly to being called out and purportedly approached the offending party, threatening to "kick [his] ass."

Although he's been able to steer clear of issuing physical threats during his presidential campaign, Obama has gotten his dander up on a number of occasions. Despite having countenanced 20 years of anti-American and racist bile from Jeremiah Wright, Obama finally became incensed with his reverend earlier this year. What was the minister's crime? No, it wasn't stirring up racial tensions by accusing the US government of inventing diseases to kill people of color. It was Wright's assertion that Obama is a calculating politician who says what he needs to say in order to get elected. This diss enraged Obama, who at long last managed to muster some indignation toward his soon-to-be former pastor. Their longstanding relationship ended on a very bitter note.

Guy Benson

Guy Benson is's Political Editor. Follow him on Twitter @guypbenson. He is co-authors with Mary Katharine Ham for their new book End of Discussion: How the Left's Outrage Industry Shuts Down Debate, Manipulates Voters, and Makes America Less Free (and Fun).

Author Photo credit: Jensen Sutta Photography