As the president’s fast-track trade legislation was going down in flames, he rushed to his party to…well, not really to make his case, or to seek rational compromise, or to respectfully persuade. None of that.
Instead, as Oregon Democrat Peter DeFazio described it, “Basically, the president tried to both guilt people and then impugn their integrity.”
Welcome to our world, Sir.
This, in fact, is how President Barack Obama has responded to his opposition—and even his mild critics—in virtually every case. It is how he deals with Republicans all the time. It is how he responded to the Citizens United decision, even to the point of publicly criticizing the members of the Supreme Court at the State of the Union address, while they were sitting right in front of him.
Even just last week, as the Supreme Court continues to weigh its decision in King v. Burwell, the case that will determine whether the federal government can give subsidies, the President of the United States, with all the hubris he could muster, claimed that the Court should never even have taken the case. He made similar statements about the Court’s responsibility to uphold the Affordable Care Act before that decision was rendered, shockingly doing exactly as he wanted.
It has long been understood that the presidency provides a “bully pulpit”, the ability to use the office to persuade the public. However, this president goes beyond that; he is simply a bully.
When the president dislikes something, he is not content to leave it alone. He seems utterly incapable of accepting a negative answer. He believes that, as president, he has the right to have the last word on virtually anything. The Supreme Court rules against him unanimously a dozen times—and he ignores it. His “recess appointments” are struck down by the Court because they were nothing of the kind. They were appointments made against the explicit will of Congress and were therefore unconstitutional. And what happened as a result? Nothing. He just can’t do it again.
When the Citizens United case gave (he believed) new power to conservative groups to engage in political activity, he agitated for it to be “overturned” (something politicians have somehow developed the idea they can do, when in fact only the Court itself can “overturn” its decision.) In addition, he may have used his power to influence the IRS to pressure such groups, making it more difficult for them to obtain and retain non-profit status and to operate during the 2012 election season. More than one observer has noted that, if that turns out to have been the case, it may have been the only reason he won the 2012 election.
One should not, however, be deceived to think that this tendency toward heavy-handed pressure and personal attacks are a new development. Obama did not become president and then was transformed by the power of the office into a bully.
No, he has always been a bully. And not only to Republicans.
In fact, one of the earliest-known instances of his thug-like bullying was to victimize not just his opponent, but one of his closest political allies.
Barack Obama’s political career began when Illinois State Senator Alice Palmer hand-picked him to replace her as she ran for the US House of Representatives to replace Mel Reynolds, whose conviction for obstruction of justice and solicitation of child pornography had sent him away. Sadly for her, she was not successful in her primary quest. Interesting historical tidbit: the seat was won by Jesse Jackson, Jr., who has just now finished his prison term for fraud, conspiracy, and criminal forfeiture. His wife starts her prison term soon, as the judge decided to let them serve at different times, so that their kids would be parented by someone. (I know–Illinois, right?)
At any rate, Obama didn’t go peacefully away and let Alice Palmer have her seat back. Instead, he not only ran against her, he got his lawyers to go through all the petitions of all the candidates—and disqualify all of them.
Yep, Barack Obama won his first elected position by getting rid of all the other candidates.
But it didn’t stop there. Primary opponent Blair Hull’s part in the US Senate election is mysteriously missing from Wikipedia. However, the truth is that Hull was doing relatively well—until his divorce papers were released, after the Chicago Tribune (former employer of Obama advisor David Axelrod) filed suit to get the sealed record opened. The papers showed that Hull had been aggressive with his wife, and that sunk his candidacy.
But, wait. There’s more.
After winning the primary, Obama faced Jack Ryan, one of the best Republican candidates Illinois ever produced—a millionaire who had left Goldman Sachs to teach poor kids. Lucky for Barack Obama, Ryan also had been divorced. Although the divorce papers per se were already released, newspapers (yeah, of course) sued for the custody portions to be unsealed. Ryan had pressured his wife to go to sex clubs with him, though no sex actually occurred. This was enough for the Illinois GOP to push him out of the race. With three months to go, they brought in Alan Keyes, who lost to Obama, 70 to 23 percent.
So, yeah, Democrats. This is your guy. This is your bully.
Welcome back to the schoolyard.