The Obama Watch

Obama’s Petulant Presidency

So much for his "first-class temperament."

By 8.18.10

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Remember when Christopher Buckley endorsed Barack Obama? Let's revisit.

The son of the late William F. Buckley, the founder of National Review, wrote in October 2008, "As for Senator Obama: He has exhibited throughout a "first-class temperament."

Yet now nearly nineteen months into Obama's presidency there is scant evidence of that "first-class temperament" to which Buckley refers. If Obama's term in office thus far can be summed up with a single word I would choose petulant. Merriam-Webster defines petulant as "insolent or rude in speech or behavior"; "characterized by temporary or capricious ill humor." This fits Obama to a tee.

President Obama has been petulant towards those who disagree with him. Just days after taking office he told Republican Congressional leaders who objected to his stimulus plan, "I won. I'm the president." At this same meeting he told Republicans, "You can't just listen to Rush Limbaugh and get things done."

President Obama has been petulant towards those who seek freedom from totalitarianism. When it came time to choose between the Iranian mullahs and the millions of Iranians marching on the streets he chose the mullahs, stating it wasn't for us to "meddle." This would not be forgotten by the Iranian people. During the 30th anniversary of the Iranian Revolution, months following the "elections," demonstrators could be heard chanting, "Obama, Obama -- either you're with them or you're with us."

President Obama has been petulant to dissidents. He would not meet with the Dalai Lama during his U.S. visit in October 2009 so as not to offend Chinese Communists prior to his state visit to Beijing the following month. When the Tibetan spiritual leader did finally meet with Obama last February, it was behind closed doors. The only glimpse the world got of the Dalai Lama was when he left the White House out a side door where a large pile of trash awaited him. Contrast this with the time the Dalai Lama met with President Bush in October 2007. On that occasion, Bush handed him the Congressional Gold Medal.

President Obama has been petulant to our closest friends and allies. After the stalwart friendship between Bush and Tony Blair, Obama paid his respects to Great Britain by returning a bust of Sir Winston Churchill, which Blair had lent, to Bush after the attacks of September 11, 2001. Obama's rudeness didn't prevent then British Prime Minister Gordon Brown from giving him a penholder made out of timbers from the H.M.S. Gannet, an anti-slavery ship. Obama's idea of reciprocity was to give Brown 25 DVDs -- which were unplayable in the U.K. Let us also not forget how Obama made every possible effort to avoid Brown during the opening of the UN General Assembly last September. And to think Brown was a fellow socialist.

What about President Obama's petulance towards Israel? Build nuclear weapon in Tehran and Obama will be cool, detached, and behave as if nothing out of the ordinary has happened. But build houses in Jerusalem and Obama will unleash not only his sound and fury but also the entire weight of the U.S. government right down on you. When Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wouldn't let Obama push him around at the White House over settlements in East Jerusalem, Obama walked out on him.

President Obama has been petulant towards police officers sworn to protect us. Who can forget when the President chastised the Sergeant James Crowley and the Cambridge Police Department for having "acted stupidly" in the arrest of Harvard Professor (and Obama's friend) Henry Louis Gates, Jr.? Yet it isn't the only time he has cast aspersions against law enforcement. Last April, when commenting on Arizona's immigration law which had passed days earlier, Obama said, "But now, suddenly, if you don't have your papers and you took your kid out to get ice cream, you're going to be harassed." That President Obama would casually accuse law enforcement of planning to engage in wanton harassment speaks of a petulant disposition.

President Obama has been petulant towards this country. What American President refers to his country while abroad as "arrogant, derisive and dismissive"?

And now President Obama has been petulant towards the families who lost loved ones during the attacks of September 11, 2001. This time he may have taken his petulance too far with his support for the construction of the Ground Zero Mosque: 

But let me be clear. As a citizen, and as President, I believe that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as everyone else in this country. And that includes the right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in Lower Manhattan, in accordance with local laws and ordinances. This is America.

Yet Americans have been clear in saying it isn't about religious freedom but rather about propriety. Just because Muslims can build a mosque near the site of the deadliest terrorist attack in our nation's history doesn't mean they should. But instead of apologizing and admitting the error of his ways, Obama reverts to petulant form and tells us, "I was not commenting and I will not comment on the wisdom of making the decision to put a mosque there. I was commenting very specifically on the right people have that dates back to our founding." And exactly how many mosques are presently being proposed for construction on private property in Lower Manhattan? For Obama to suggest he wasn't giving his blessing to the Ground Zero Mosque is an insult to our intelligence. He has now reached the pinnacle of petulance.

Does Christopher Buckley still think Obama has "a first-class temperament"? What does he have to say for Obama's petulant presidency?

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About the Author
Aaron Goldstein writes from Boston, Massachusetts.