Maybe Barack Obama just hasn’t adjusted yet to life as an executive, as compared to that of a campaigner. After fifteen months, though, CNBC’s Media & Technology Editor has tired of giving Obama the benefit of the doubt. In a lengthy essay from two days ago, Dennis Kneale calls Obama a “bully” and compares him to Richard Nixon for communication skills:
Obama’s latest broadside came over the weekend, when he vehemently criticized the state of Arizona and its (Republican) governor for passing a tough new law on illegal immigration.
The President called the measure “misguided” and all but labeled it un-American. He even ordered the Department of Justice, before the ink on this bill-signing has even dried, to examine the civil-rights “implications” of the new law. Seems like the courts and rights groups could handle that once any problem actually emerges.
Can you remember any other modern President, wagging a finger from on high, so directly and bitterly criticizing a new law passed by any state?
Kneale doesn’t support Arizona’s new immigration-enforcement law; in fact, he says he “hates it.” However, that kind of a response from a President hardly helps, and it ignores the Presidents’ role in a federal republic:
This is hubris at best and ignorance of the Constitution at worst. The U.S. was founded in part on the precept of states’ rights as an important counterweight to a rapacious federal government. Thus a President must step softly here, questioning gently but avoiding rancor and browbeating.
Nor is it the first time that we’ve seen “Bam the Bully,” as Kneale calls Obama. His excoriation of the Supreme Court during the State of the Union speech shocked those at its breach of decorum, although Obama’s defenders predictably blamed Samuel Alito for having the temerity to indulge a normal human reaction to it. Obama has all but demanded that Wall Street firms shut up while Congress debates financial regulation reform, despite Congress’ ineptitude at it over the past twelve years and the collapse they caused with their blundering interventions. Obama also demanded that Republicans shut up last year, a line that Obama dropped shortly afterward.
One group gets to keep talking, though, as Kneale observes:
Similarly, President Obama maligns Wall Street for trying to have a say in financial reform and lobbying for its interests, though this input is a vital ingredient in any democratic process. Yet Obama doesn’t criticize giant unions like the AFL-CIO and the SEIU when they similarly lobby on fin-reg.
Why? Because the unions agree with him. Even though Wall Street has a far more legitimate claim to get involved in this debate than do the unions, which represent only 7% of the private work force and essentially should have no dog in this fight at all.
It’s not just because they agree with Obama. It’s because they fund the Democratic Party. Money talks, even especially in the Obama administration. That’s why the White House welcomes union input on financial regulation and disdains that of Wall Street, and why the bankrupt unions have a seat on the new federal deficit commission with retiring SEIU chief Andy Stern — who will leave his union swimming in red ink.
Obama offers a bully pulpit, indeed … in the most literal sense possible, and one deployed on behalf of his closest contributors.