Instead of take the time to outline his plans for a second term in the second debate, President Barack Obama last Tuesday did something perhaps no previous president had done, attack his opponent in personal terms.
On Thursday in the Wall Street Journal, Peggy Noonan wonders if the president will pay “a certain price” for ending “a certain part of the old-school American political style“. The Athena of punditry reminds us how he started out:
Gov. Romney’s says he’s got a five-point plan? Gov. Romney doesn’t have a five-point plan. He has a one-point plan. And that plan is to make sure that folks at the top play by a different set of rules. That’s been his philosophy in the private sector, that’s been his philosophy as governor, that’s been his philosophy as a presidential candidate.” Mr. Romney, said the president, likes a world in which “you can ship jobs overseas and get tax breaks for it. You can invest in a company, bankrupt it, lay off the workers, strip away their pensions, and you still make money.”
Peggy contends he said things that were “harsh and personal” and that he called the Republican “selfish and greedy”. “What the president said at the debate”, she notes, “was nothing he hadn’t said on the trail”:
His campaign has been personal, accusatory and manipulative. But there in the room on a tiny stage, for a sitting president to come out with that kind of put-down—I couldn’t imagine a JFK doing it, with his cool, or a Jerry Ford with his Midwestern decency, or a Reagan, or the Bushes. When you are president, you don’t stand next to an opponent and accuse and attack. You keep a certain almost aesthetic distance. You know the height of the office you hold. You let the debate come to you, and if at some point you get an opening to uncork a joke or a more-in-sorrow-than-in-anger criticism, you move.
She assumes the Democrat was “trying to look strong and commanding, to take control”, but wonders if instead he looked “like a hack, like a tough Chicago pol who isn’t quite big enough to be where he is”. Read the whole thing.
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