You could, without stretching, make an aesthetic case for voting against Barack Obama. Leaving aside the hobbled economy, the promised second term "flexibility" with Putin, the job-diminishing Dodd/Frank act, the Benghazi debacle, the train wreck called Obamacare, the assault on the free exercise of religion, the pretense that the Lilly Ledbetter Act codified equal pay for equal work, the limp response to Iran's nuclear threat, the many Solyndras, kicking Bowles/Simpson to the curb, the "free" contraceptives, the recommendation that Israel do some "serious self-reflection," the preening over bin Laden's assassination, the Bill Clinton ad saying Romney wouldn't have approved the mission, the pretense that Gabby Giffords' shooting should put us on the path to political civility, the savaging of Paul Ryan in a speech to which he had been specifically invited, and the fact that Obama didn't know the number when David Letterman asked about how big the national debt has become -- there are grounds for firing Obama that rest upon seemliness.
Barack Obama isn't the first candidate to go ugly in search of votes -- but he may well be the first whose reputation for high-mindedness seems not to have been the least bit dented by his bottom-feeding. Both he and his acolytes on the left have dragged our public life down to the vulgar level to which they've already dragged popular culture.
Often, the two intersect. Madonna exhorts her fans at a concert to vote for Barack Obama and when some boo, she extends her middle finger. Move-On.org has an ad up that is just the sort of thing Comedy Central types find naughty and delightful -- elderly Americans using foul language about Romney. One woman in her 90s promises to "c--- punch" the candidate. Ah, hope and change.
The president isn't responsible for every vile expression of his supporters. But is he at least responsible for his vice president? Biden's behavior is beyond unseeemly. He has strayed so far beyond propriety as to provoke doubts about his mental stability. Do we really think it's cute for a vice president to call a major piece of legislation a "big f------ deal"? Is it just ol' Joe being Joe when he tells a black audience that Republicans "want to put y'all back in chains"? His performance in the debate -- bullying, crude, manic and boorish -- has set a new low for debates on the national level. We've seen befuddled performances, surly ones, bored, and even incoherent, displays by candidates for president and vice president. But Joe Biden behaved like a mean drunk. The response of his boss and his party to this thuggishness was ... applause.
The debate was not Biden's lowest moment. That came during the solemn ceremony greeting the body of slain Navy seal Tyrone Woods. Biden first approached Charles Woods and, referring to his own experience with family tragedy, noted, "I received one of those damned phone calls." Just a few minutes later, the vice president of the United States sidled over to the grieving father and asked, "Did your son always have balls the size of cue balls?"
Biden seems to set the tone for the Obama White House. Presidents have used swear words before, but Barack Obama now has the distinction of using them, not in private, but in an on-the-record interview. And not in the abstract, as in, the "s--- hit the fan," but as an epithet about his opponent.
It was Barack Obama's campaign, not a super PAC, not an independent supporter, that ran a crass ad aimed at women comparing voting for Obama with losing one's virginity. (An idea lifted from, of all people, Vladimir Putin!)
Mr. Obama was always a down-the-line leftist, but when he ran for president the first time, he did so with dignity and even a touch of elegance. That style may have led some voters to overlook the reactionary leftist policies that the "cool" candidate was peddling.
This time, the elegance is gone, the fangs are bared, and standards of honesty are long gone. His policies failed, so no accusation against Mitt Romney is held back: He's an enemy of women who will outlaw all abortions (no exceptions). He will raise taxes on the middle class just to cut them for the rich. He ships jobs overseas and pockets the profits. He won the first debate through lies (sheesh). He gives cancer to the wives of unemployed workers. He delights in bankrupting companies. He wants to prevent women from getting "access" to birth control, and so on.
It's as if Barack Obama, once so stylish, is making the same gesture Madonna did -- to at least half the nation.