Here’s how I greeted the news of Barack Obama’s victory on election night last November: “Say hello to the punk presidency.”
I was hardly out of line, basing the president-elect’s moniker on his poor behavior during the primary and general election campaigns, best exemplified in May and November YouTube videos. In each case — the first in reference to Hillary Clinton, the second to John McCain — Obama scratched his face with his middle finger and seemed, along with part of each crowd, to smile at the “cuteness” of what he had just done. As I said on election eve, “Once might be an accident; twice is proof.”
I fervently hoped that the former Illinois senator had decided during the campaign that such conduct was required for victory, to be discarded upon achieving it.
Less than 72 hours later, that hope was dashed when Obama, speaking of conversations with our still-living presidents, cracked what he thought was a funny joke:
“I have spoken to all of them who are living,” he responded. “I didn’t want to get into a Nancy Reagan thing about doing any séances.”
Hardy har har. Obama didn’t even get the “joke” right. Nancy Reagan infamously consulted astrology. But in the spring of 1996, it was Hillary Clinton who “‘talked’ to Eleanor Roosevelt. … It was not unusual for White House staff members to hear Hillary, behind closed doors, having animated — if one-sided — conversations with Eleanor’s ghost.” Decades earlier, Jackie Kennedy said, “I used to sit in the Lincoln Room and I could really feel his strength.”
I thought that this misstep might be a “thrill of victory” mistake made in the flush of impending power.
But a month later, Obama journeyed into dangerous territory, telling the world that workers who had occupied the Republic Window plant in Chicago were “absolutely right.” At the time, I wrote that “Obama’s support of lawbreakers has the potential to undermine the overall rule of law.” It was not a good sign that Bank of America and Chase Bank succumbed to the public-pressure nightmare, “loaning” over $1 million that will almost certainly never be repaid to settle the workers’ alleged claims.
Then there was the president-elect’s condescending treatment of Chicago Tribune reporter John McCormick on December 16. Obama cut McCormick off in the middle of his question about the controversy surrounding Obama’s former U.S. Senate seat, telling him not to “waste” his question.