Cut the gang­ster talk

The Washington Times Weekly - - Editorials -

Pres­i­dent Obama re­gards prom­ises as pie crusts, only to be bro­ken, but he has kept one prom­ise, which de­serves recog­ni­tion. He promised to change the tone and tenor of Wash­ing­ton, and so he has. The tenor is loud and the tone is sour, and he is in large mea­sure re­spon­si­ble.

Dur­ing the gov­ern­ment shut­down Mr. Obama of­ten likened his op­po­nents to ter­ror­ists. That’s why, he said in ex­pla­na­tion, he re­fused to bar­gain with Congress. “It’s tempt­ing not to ne­go­ti­ate with hostage tak­ers un­less the hostage gets harmed,” said Mr. Obama. “In this case, the hostage was the Amer­i­can peo­ple, and I was not will­ing to see them get harmed.” His al­lies took this as a sig­nal to em­ploy his slash-and-burn lan­guage.

Rep. Steve Co­hen, a loyal Demo­crat from Mem­phis, com­pared his Repub­li­can col­leagues in the House to al Qaeda sleeper cells. “We take an oath to sup­port the coun­try against all en­e­mies for­eign and do­mes­tic,” he told MSNBC, “and th­ese are the do­mes­tic en­e­mies.” Rep. Alan Grayson of Florida raised the tem­per­a­ture even more, liken­ing the Tea Party to the Ku Klux Klan in an email, which fea­tured an im­age of a burn­ing cross as the “T” in Tea Party. Moveon. org started a pe­ti­tion de­mand­ing that Speaker John Boehner and his Repub­li­cans be ar­rested and tried for sedi­tion.

MSNBC took the cue from the White House and ran with it. Chris Matthews of MSNBC, ever ready to say wild and crazy things, calls Repub­li­cans racists and likens them to slave­hold­ers, ask­ing whether Tea Party mem­bers “still count blacks as three-fifths?” Chris, who must have been ab­sent the day his ju­niorhigh school class stud­ied Amer­i­can his­tory, doesn’t un­der­stand that slaves were counted as three-fifths of a cit­i­zen to re­duce the South’s slave­hold­ing rep­re­sen­ta­tion in the House. His fel­low talk­ing head Martin Bashir re­cently in­quired whether “Ted Cruz is a bit like the David Koresh of the Repub­li­can Party?” Koresh was the leader of the Branch Da­vid­ian re­li­gious sect whose com­pound was raided by the Bureau of Al­co­hol, To­bacco and Firearms on the or­der of At­tor­ney Gen­eral Janet Reno, a Demo­crat, killing 54 adults and 28 chil­dren.

“Ac­tivists” on the Demo­cratic fringe threat­ened to kill Sen. Ted Cruz for try­ing to de­lay Oba­macare, which Mr. Obama him­self may yet do to clean up the train wreck. One ran­dom Twit­ter user pub­lished the home ad­dress of the Texas se­na­tor, adding, “What goes around comes around CRUZ.” How civil is that?

The pres­i­dent is a gifted or­a­tor, and his cel­e­brated rhetoric finds lit­tle res­o­nance on the low road. He should re­mem­ber that many of his peo­ple take their lead from what he says, in­ter­pret­ing it in ways that he might not ap­prove. Mr. Obama could ac­com­plish more by us­ing his tal­ent to up­lift and in­spire, as FDR, Ron­ald Rea­gan and other pres­i­dents have done. Mr. Obama for­gets that he’s no longer the com­mu­nity ac­tivist in Chicago.

The pres­i­dent prefers to lec­ture au­di­ences about ci­vil­ity. Be­fore the 2010 midterm elec­tions, Mr. Obama painted Tea Party can­di­dates as ex­treme, blam­ing them for cre­at­ing a “poi­sonous po­lit­i­cal cli­mate” where “all you see when you turn on the TV is name-call­ing.” The pres­i­dent’s fol­low­ers du­ti­fully picked up on the ci­vil­ity theme and pil­lo­ried “ac­tivists” on the other side as if they were the prob­lem. The shut­down episode re­vealed who’s re­ally com­mit­ted to tem­per­ing the rhetoric.

In his first pres­i­den­tial cam­paign, Mr. Obama boasted that if Repub­li­cans “bring a knife to the fight, we can bring a gun.” The pres­i­dent should break that un­wor­thy prom­ise and sheath his knife and hol­ster his pop gun. He’s the pres­i­dent now, not a Chicago gang­ster, and he shouldn’t talk like one.

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