I’m not sure exactly how I would feel if the president labeled me an anxious member of a “certain” subculture manipulated — “stirred up” — by “somebody like a Mr. Beck.” But I am sure I wouldn’t feel respected.

Why couldn’t Obama at least find it within himself to say that he shared the rally’s ostensible goals of honoring the military, etc.?

This was such a silly political unforced error that I have to assume Obama committed it out of sincere belief. He appears persuaded, intellectually, that things like bad credit-card regulation and low college graduation rates lead mechanically to irrational populist resentment. He is not a Marxist or even a socialist. But he is what you might call a historical materialist, in that he clearly thinks economic trends are the main determinants of political thought and behavior.