Obama’s Graciousness Deficit
Jabbing at Bush? Bashing Rush Limbaugh? So much for elevating the tone in Washington.
January 26, 2009 - 12:01 am
President Obama ran his campaign on “change” and he declares now at every turn just how changey he is — on torture, the economy, the Middle East, ethics, etc.
Forget for a moment whether there is anything to the high-minded talk. That’s his theme and ticket to wielding political power.
The unfortunate result of this is that he is now given to jab continually at his predecessor. Some might attribute this to the failure to realize “the campaign is over” but it is perhaps better understood as milking his change meme for all its worth. He is changing from the Bush era, he repeats ad nauseam. The result, nevertheless, is a decided lack of graciousness toward his predecessor.
Peter Robinson, former Reagan speech writer, observes of the Inaugural Address:
George W. Bush had gone to exceptional lengths to ensure a smooth transition, even making some unpopular moves — such as asking Congress to release some $350 billion bailout funds — to spare Obama the trouble. Obama offered Bush no more than a single, curt sentence of thanks. Then he blamed Bush for the economic crisis, denouncing his “failure to make hard choices” — as if Bush hadn’t attempted to deal with the crisis by enacting a stimulus measure of the very kind Obama himself now proposes — and accused Bush of “protecting narrow interests.” For that matter, the new president all but ignored the principal task of any inaugural address, that of reuniting the nation after the divisiveness of a campaign. Almost 60 million Americans cast their ballots for Sen. John McCain. What did Obama have to say to his opponents? “What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them.” Some olive branch.
And the same smallness of spirit is showing up in rhetoric directed toward the Republicans in Congress.