Victor Davis Hanson understands that presidents and presidential candidates are bound to misspeak. But Hanson documents for Nstional Review Online readers some common themes among our 44th president’s misstatements.
FDR unfairly and often demonized his political opponents. Truman could be coarsely blunt; Nixon far more so and in paranoid fashion. Jimmy Carter’s beatific façade seemed to hide all sorts of inner mean streaks. But what seems somewhat different from past presidential sermons, malapropisms, and flat-out wrong statements is the tendency of Barack Obama to lecture, talk down to, caricature, or even insult various people and groups — even as no other president in recent memory has reminded the nation so often of the need for civility, unity, and tolerance.
After only one year plus of campaigning and three years of governance, there is already a sizable corpus of Obama’s targets. The common theme is less ideology, politics, race, class, or gender than a sense that many groups and people simply don’t measure up to Obama’s high standards. Some are deemed lazy, stupid, greedy, fearful, or clinging; others are too affluent, of questionable ethics, and ill-informed and ill-intentioned — and thus are culpable for our current problems.
Where did the president pick up this habit of hypercriticism and easy caricature? Who knows? Michelle Obama showed similar tendencies during the campaign, when she labeled the U.S. a country that is “just downright mean,” until recently not worthy of pride, and variously talked about unnamed persons who perennially “raise the bar” on those struggling to get ahead.
Yet lecturing, demonizing, and caricaturing are not just symptoms of narcissism or being socially dense, but are also a revelation that Obama feels that he can say almost anything he wants, with the expectation — always borne out in the past — of few consequences.