The unpresidential president

Earlier this month President Obama attended the groundbreaking of an advanced car battery factory in Holland, Michigan, subsidized by the stimulus bill. It was President Obama’s fourth battery-related trip, and it came as the White House makes an aggressive push to tell what one senior official called “the battery story.” Veronique de Rugy isn’t buying the battery story.
The groundbreaking occurred in the district of Republican Rep. Pete Hoekstra, who attended at the invitation of the company and sat in the first row to listen to the president’s remarks. Hoekstra of course opposed the Democrats’ $800 million stimulus bill. He is also a Michigan gubernatorial candidate. For reasons that remain mysterious to me, Obama seized the opportunity to attack Hoekstra:

There are some folks who want to go back – who think we should return to the policies that helped to lead to this recession,” Obama said later in his comments honoring a new advanced battery factory being built by the company LG Chem. “Some made the political calculation that it’s better to obstruct than lend a hand. They said no to the tax cuts, they said no to small business loans, they said no to clean energy projects. It doesn’t stop them from coming to ribbon cuttings — but that’s OK.

The president’s remarks were both classless and petty. Hoekstra aptly commented: “It demeans the office of the president. It’s disappointing. It is unpresidential.” Hoekstra added: “This is my home district. These people are paying the taxes that he’s handing out today. I’m here to respect the office of the president, and I don’t think he reciprocated.” Video of Obama’s attack and Hoekstra’s response is accessible here.
The incident revealed something that we have come to observe frequently with Obama, as in his attack on the Supreme Court at the State of the Union address. In the current Weekly Standard cover story, Professor James Ceaser observes:

The longer he is president, the less presidential he has become. Obama has reversed the usual process of growth and maturation, appearing today far more like a candidate for the presidency–and a very ordinary one at that–than he did during the latter stages of his campaign.

Professor Ceaser explores Obama’s turn to political populism and comments:

To engage in populism and parallel demagogic tricks–to blame others, to mock, to display no magnanimity toward opponents–all of these actions necessarily appear unpresidential. They are fitting for campaigns, but they make a president look smaller.

Professor Ceaser gives a hint of the price exacted by the events betraying Obama’s lack of class:

Obama’s political counselors do not seem to have the slightest clue of the damage they have done to him, because they have no conception of what the office of the presidency is all about. They coach their prince to be presidential one day and populist the next, oblivious to the fact that if presidentialism appears as a mere pose it loses all credibility.

Professor Ceaser’s long essay explains something important that is happening before our eyes. It demonstrates how right Hoekstra was to characterize Obama’s remarks about him as “unpresidential.”

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