Much has been written in recent weeks concerning the Obama Administration’s early struggles and stumbles, particularly in matters such as properly vetting prospective cabinet nominees, differentiating between campaigning and governing, and staying on message during a rambling press conference. Some commentators have tried to downplay or dismiss these difficulties, while others have chalked them up as the inevitable errors of an amateur who has been pushed too far, too fast. What many of the pundits tend to overlook in their analyses of President Obama’s first weeks is that these early misadventures illustrate the petulance and arrogance that stand as the defining elements of the man’s essential character.
The examples of President Obama’s overweening sense of pride, hubris and superiority are, in fact, legion. Certainly a man who writes his autobiography twice by the age of forty-three, who makes no secret of his intention to be the President of the United States while he is a neighborhood agitator in Chicago, and, later, as an Illinois state senator is not a model of modesty, humility and self-effacement. Moreover, his short tenure in the U.S. Senate was marked by continued exaggerations of his experience and the supposed jurisprudential acumen he demonstrated as a lecturer at the University of Chicago School of Law.
In 2006 Senator Obama voted against confirming John Roberts as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court based on differing “legal opinions” concerning affirmative action and abortion. Then-Senator Obama used his former position as a law school lecturer to issue a mild rebuke to Roberts for his insufficient respect for fictitious constitutional guarantees. Similarly, Senator Obama invoked his experience when helping his party create a scandal over the Bush Administration’s firing of eight U.S. Attorneys. Obama solemnly declared, “I was a constitutional law professor, which means, unlike the President, I actually respect the constitution.” In actuality, Barack Obama taught courses on racism, voting rights, and social policy. During his twelve years at the law school Obama never published a single work of legal scholarship. (Although he did find the time to engage in five electoral races) Still, this meager record of accomplishment did not stop the Senator from claiming that he was something of a constitutional expert as opposed to the presumably unlettered President Bush.
During the 2008 campaign examples of Obama’s arrogance and petulance abounded. His infamous slap at small town Americans who bitterly clung to their guns and religion received wide play and surprised many observers who had grown used to the tightly scripted candidate on the campaign trail. In this same forum Obama also boasted that he understood the world better than Hillary Clinton and John McCain and that he needed no foreign policy expertise on the bottom half of his ticket.
Late night television comedians reaped a bounty of material last year when the Obama campaign introduced a logo similar to the Presidential Seal for their candidate. The logo displayed a bald eagle clutching an olive branch, which is identical to the Presidential Seal, but the logo had a large “O” covering the eagle’s body rather than a shield. Above the eagle written in Latin were the words “Vero Possumus” which translates roughly to “Yes We Can” the more-or-less official chant at Obama rallies. This seal was quickly retired after drawing much unfavorable comment, yet it says a lot about the healthy ego of the candidate.Also during the 2008 campaign many of the reporters who covered candidate Obama noted his inflated rhetoric regarding himself. In February of last year he responded to Senator Clinton’s charge that he was more talk than action by responding, “It’s true I give a good speech. What can I say? There’s nothing wrong with that.” He later said about himself, “I have become a symbol of America returning to her best traditions.” Shortly after nearly a quarter million Germans chanted his name at the Berlin rally Obama, the proud citizen of the world, claimed without the slightest cringe of embarrassment, “…this was the moment when we began to provide care for the sick and good jobs to the jobless; this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal.” Such examples of Obama’s overheated rhetoric strike many as colossal arrogance but we must remember that this is the candidate who assured the world that “We are the change we have been waiting for!”
The voters responded favorably to the Obama appeal, despite the arrogance, petulance and thin-skinned nature of the candidate, himself, by electing him to the Presidency in a near landslide. Now that he is the President we see further evidence of Obama’s arrogance. He has apparently declared war against Rush Limbaugh, and certainly the verbal potshots are the first salvoes of the campaign to reinstate the “Fairness Doctrine” and silence conservative talk radio. The President refused to discuss his stimulus plan in any substantive manner with GOP House Whip Eric Cantor, responding to Cantor’s reasoned arguments by stating icily “I won.” Vatican officials criticized Obama for the high-handed manner in which he overturned the ban on state funding for family planning groups that perform abortions overseas.
The new President has allowed this sense of entitlement to slip from official duties into personal matters as well. The Democrats vociferously criticized the Republican Vice-Presidential candidate for her excessive spending on clothing and cosmetics last October but President and Mrs. Obama have hired a hugely expensive designer to redecorate the White House at a cost estimated to run over $ 100,000. The Obama inaugural gala also proved to be the costliest event of its type in history. Of course, what is another $ 40,000,000 or so when the nation is facing trillion dollar deficits each year for the next couple of decades? Finally, when reporters mentioned that the White House seemed warm to the point of stuffiness in late January, senior adviser David Axelrod said that Obama was a native Hawaiian who likes his house warm, and added that one could grow orchids in the warmth of the family quarters. He must have forgotten that Obama lectured Americans last spring that it was no longer permissible to drive SUV’s, eat as much as we want, and keep our thermostats set at seventy-two degrees the year round. When you have been elected to the Presidency and lived in taxpayer subsidized housing you can forget about practicing what you preached to the public eight months earlier.