President Barack Obama began his term with the highest of accolades in the press. Hardball host, TV’s Chris Matthews, felt a tingle go up and down his leg whenever Mr. Obama spoke. Newsweek’s Evan Thomas said Obama hovered over the nations, like “a sort of god.” All too soon, however, the president came crashing down, like Icarus in Greek legend. Young Icarus flew too close to the sun and the wax that attached the feathers to his homemade wings melted. Icarus plunged into the sea. President Obama may have gotten too close to those klieg lights.
He senses it himself. “They talk about me like I’m a dog,” he complained recently. Actually, Mr. President, that’s wrong. Americans love their dogs. Just recall the furor that erupted when Lyndon B. Johnson lifted his beagles up by their ears. Americans liked those beagles a lot more than they liked LBJ.
This campaign is bringing out the worst in some of Mr. Obama’s critics. I want to say: Enough! Let’s show some more respect for the President of the United States. It’s gone too far when a candidate for governor of one of our states publicly tells the president he can take his endorsement and “shove it.”
What’s that you say? Was the president really going to endorse a Republican? Not at all. The candidate who told the commander-in-chief to take his job endorsement and shove it was none other than Frank Caprio, the Democratic candidate for governor of Rhode Island.
It seems the president is campaigning in the Ocean State, but is pointedly not embracing
Mr. Caprio. Instead, the president’s non-endorsement will be seen as a blessing-in-disguise for former Republican Sen. Lincoln Chafee. Chafee is running for governor as an independent.
Mr. Obama continues to have a high approval rating in Rhode Island — if not in the Caprio household. Rhode Island is one of the few states where local candidates are happy to be seen with the embattled president.
How bad is it getting on the campaign trail? Well, local candidates seem happy to bring former President Bill Clinton in to campaign for them. They’d rather have an impeached former president, one who turned the pardon process into a fire sale during his last days in office. Does anyone remember Marc Rich? Clinton gave him a pardon for dealing in oil with Saddam Hussein. Even TIME magazine cited the Marc Rich pardon as one of the ten most scandalous pardons in our nation’s history. Yet candidates prefer hugging Bill Clinton on the hustings to being hugged by Barack Obama.
Does anyone remember the White House in 2000? Bill Clinton survived impeachment and decided to throw a last lavish party for the two-hundredth anniversary of the president’s house. He invited those famous “friends of Bill” to the East Room for a ceremony. Some of them had been allowed to rent the Lincoln Bedroom for sleepovers. Let’s hope he didn’t rent it by the hour.
The late Mary McGrory described the scene under the glittering chandelier as hundreds of Bill Clinton’s strongest backers crowded into the sparkling hall. They were there to hear author David McCullough read from his best-selling biography of John Adams. America’s second president was the first to live in the White House.
McCullough’s deep, sonorous voice rang out with the words of Adams’ prayer for the White House. FDR even had it carved into the mantle of the fireplace in the State Dining Room: “I pray to heaven to bestow the best of blessings on this house and all that hereafter inhabit it . . . May none but the honest and wise men ever rule under this roof.”
The Washington Post’s McGrory records that when McCullough got to the “wise and honest” part, all of Bill Clinton’s closest friends looked at their shoes.
Yet, apparently, this year’s crop of candidates would rather have the jolly, gregarious Bill Clinton stumping for them than the White House’s current occupant. One thing you have to say for Bill Clinton: He never came off as “holier than thou.”
Maybe it’s the president’s unfortunate tendency to talk down to the American people. He tends to say they cling to their guns and their religion. He thinks they’re not thinking straight if they oppose his policies. They tend not to be rational when they’re afraid. Barack Obama talks about us as if he wishes he could elect a new people.
I’d like to see more respect for the Office of President. But I have one word of advice for the current occupant: RESPECT: It’s what you have to have in order to get.
Ken Blackwell is a visiting professor with Liberty University School of Law and senior fellow with the Family Research Council. He is the co-author of The Blueprint: Obama’s Plan to Subvert the Constitution and Build an Imperial Presidency.x