Welcome to the Punk Presidency
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.
Regardless of policy differences, surely everyone in America wished that Obama, perhaps with prodding from those around him, would change upon assuming the presidency's awesome responsibilities.
Nope. Three days after his inauguration, Obama arrogantly told Republican leaders who had come to discuss his mislabeled "stimulus" plan, "I won. ... I will trump you on that." Well, sir, every legislator in that room also won an election. Also note that it wasn't "we won" or "my party won." It was all about him and he was in their face with it. It was Dick Nixon's "I am the president" with a punk exclamation point.
Now at least one cabinet member and the president's press secretary have gotten into the act. How else does one interpret Eric Holder's description of America as "a nation of cowards" on race as anything other than a punkish attempt to force any "discussion" of race to meet his and his administration's terms?
Most recently, the nation was treated to the reaction of White House spokesman Robert Gibbs to CNBC reporter Rick Santelli's "shout heard ‘round the world" (CNBC's term).
On February 19, Santelli roundly criticized the administration's mortgage modification plan, expressed legitimate concern that it is "promoting bad behavior," and ridiculed the general idea that we can spend our way out of our current economic troubles.
Gibbs was in full punk mode -- a commenter at my blog pronounced it "Gibberish" -- as he snidely told the assembled press that Santelli, whose career as a trader and then financial reporter goes back to 1979, "doesn't know what he's talking about." Gibbs also assumed that Santelli, apparently like members of Congress who voted for the mislabeled "stimulus" package without bothering to read it, hadn't bothered to peruse the administration's proposal, suggesting that he should "download it, hit print, and begin to read it."
You stay classy, Bob. Rick Santelli has more than likely forgotten more than you'll ever know about economic moral hazards.
Fortunately, Santelli pushed back hard Friday night on Larry Kudlow's program, even tearing up what he said was a copy of the plan. Kudlow appropriately expressed alarm about the brazen attempt at press intimidation by our punk president's spokesman.
Oh, and speaking of intimidation, last week we also saw some of Barack Obama's old friends spring into action. In Baltimore, ACORN members broke into and occupied a foreclosed home, saying, "This is our house now." Do you think it's just a wee bit likely that they took Obama's expressed solidarity with lawbreakers at Republic Window as permission to take their "protests" to the next level?
If enough actions such as ACORN's occur and go unpunished, investors, businesspeople, and entrepreneurs will begin to conclude that the rule of law is disappearing. If that happens, there may be no limit to how far the markets and the economy might sink.
The president and his people had better start demonstrating something resembling adult maturity, and very soon. America can ill afford its current punk presidency.