Why Is President Obama Lecturing Me?

The president is right on the merits, wrong on the tone.

President Barack Obama speaks alongside people who will benefit from health insurance plans under the Affordable Care Act, as well speaks about the government shutdown in the Rose Garden of the White House, October 1, 2013.
National Journal
Ron Fournier
Oct. 2, 2013, 5:43 a.m.

Pres­id­ent Obama ac­cused Re­pub­lic­ans on Tues­day of launch­ing an “ideo­lo­gic­al cru­sade” to hold the “eco­nomy host­age” over “ideo­lo­gic­al” and “reck­less” de­mands to dis­mantle his health care law. “In oth­er words,” he said, “they de­man­ded ransom just for do­ing their jobs.”

Sev­er­al read­ers who sup­port Obama said they were dis­ap­poin­ted by the tone of his re­marks. One from Ohio wrote, “He needs to chill. He looks de­fens­ive and has no reas­on to be.” An in­de­pend­ent voter in Michigan wrote, “He seems like an angry kid.” A Mary­land Demo­crat com­plained, “I love the man, but why is he yelling at me?”

I had a sim­il­ar re­ac­tion listen­ing to the re­marks shortly after writ­ing a column in de­fense of Obama’s po­s­i­tion.

Is the pres­id­ent lec­tur­ing, be­littling Amer­ic­ans right now? Or the GOP House? Comms is­sue: Voters watch­ing might not know dif­fer­ence

— Ron Fourni­er (@ron_­fourni­er) Oc­to­ber 1, 2013

An oth­er­wise sol­id ar­gu­ment can be un­der­cut by the words a pres­id­ent chooses and the tone that greases them. It’s not enough to be right as a lead­er if you in­sult voters with your right­eous­ness. It’s not just Obama. Seni­or White House ad­viser Dan Pfeif­fer re­cently said the White House is op­posed to “ne­go­ti­at­ing with people with a bomb strapped to their chests,” an ir­re­spons­ible and over­heated im­age.

The Re­pub­lic­an Party en­gin­eered this stale­mate and is likely to shoulder most of the blame. That is, un­less the Demo­crat­ic Party matches the GOP on pet­ti­ness, stub­born­ness, and dem­agoguery. Pres­id­ents Re­agan and Clin­ton had a way of at­tack­ing their rivals with a smile, mak­ing their point without mak­ing them­selves look smal­ler. Can Obama?

Twenty-six hun­dred words in­to a long-win­ded ad­dress, Obama took a breath and said, “Let me re­peat, I will not ne­go­ti­ate over Con­gress’ re­spons­ib­il­ity to pay bills it’s already racked up. I’m not go­ing to al­low any­body to drag the good name of the United States of Amer­ica through the mud just to re­fight a settled elec­tion or ex­tract ideo­lo­gic­al de­mands.” Ten sen­tences later, he ad­ded, “We’re bet­ter than this. Cer­tainly, the Amer­ic­an people are a lot bet­ter than this.”

Yes, they are. And they might ex­pect a bet­ter tone from their pres­id­ent.

What We're Following See More »
MOST AGENCIES HAD ALREADY ALLOWED
GSA: Feds’ Uber Rides Are Now OK
16 minutes ago
THE DETAILS

"The Obama administration issued guidance on Wednesday clarifying federal agencies should reimburse employees who use ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft for any travel on official business, effective immediately. The General Services Administration issued a bulletin on the Federal Travel Regulation, cementing a policy many—but not all—agencies had already installed."

Source:
SHIFT FROM ROMNEY’S NUMBERS
Catholics, Highly Educated Moving Toward Dems
50 minutes ago
THE LATEST

Catholics who attend mass at least weekly have increased their support of the Democratic nominee by 22 points, relative to 2012, when devout Catholics backed Mitt Romney. Meanwhile, a Morning Consult poll shows that those voters with advanced degrees prefer Hillary Clinton, 51%-34%. Which, we suppose, makes the ideal Clinton voter a Catholic with a PhD in divinity.

‘CROSSED THE RED LINE’
North Korea: U.S. Has Effectively Declared War
1 hours ago
THE DETAILS

"North Korea's top diplomat for U.S. affairs told The Associated Press on Thursday that Washington ... effectively declared war by putting leader Kim Jong Un on its list of sanctioned individuals, and said a vicious showdown could erupt if the U.S. and South Korea hold annual war games as planned next month." Han Song Ryol said: "The United States has crossed the red line in our showdown. We regard this thrice-cursed crime as a declaration of war."

Source:
RUSSIA COMMENTS
Trump: I Was Being Sarcastic
1 hours ago
THE LATEST

Donald Trump's defense of his comments that Russia should hack Hillary Clinton's emails: he was kidding. “Of course I’m being sarcastic,” Trump said on Fox and Friends. “But you have 33,000 emails deleted, and the real problem is what was said on those emails from the Democratic National Committee."

Source:
PHOTO OP
Clinton Shows Up on Stage to Close Obama’s Speech
11 hours ago
THE LATEST

Just after President Obama finished his address to the DNC, Hillary Clinton walked out on stage to join him, so the better could share a few embraces, wave to the crowd—and let the cameras capture all the unity for posterity.

×