Barack Obama, raging bull

Drew Pearson, a prominent liberal columnist during the 1950s and 60s, owned a farm that sold manure. He would advertise the manure on his radio program, using the slogan “all cow, no bull.”

President Obama’s speech last night, the transcript of which I read this morning, stood Pearson on his head. It was raging bull.

Jay Cost presents a more clever “raging bull” reference. He compares Obama to the boxer Jake LaMotta, as portrayed by Robert De Niro in the classic Martin Scorsese film:

Rather than acknowledge the new Republican majorities, and try to find common ground, the president insisted on policies he knows the GOP will never accept. Tax, spend, regulate, then repeat — as if this is 2009 and Nancy Pelosi, not John Boehner, is sitting behind him.

Why? I think it’s because this president’s number one priority is always to appear unbowed. He must imitate Jake LaMotta taunting Sugar Ray Robinson at the end of Raging Bull: “You never knocked me down, Ray!”

If Obama were to respond to the midterms as Bill Clinton did — defending liberal values while working on problems with Republicans where the two sides basically agree — he’d appear to be capitulating. By insisting on ever more government, he’s LaMotta: you never knocked me down, Boehner!

I agree that swagger had much to do with Obama’s speech (as well as his presidency in general). Indeed, his boast that “I’ve run my last campaign; I know because I won both of them” is as close to LaMotta’s taunt as you’re likely to hear a president (or any major politician) come.

Let’s hope so, anyway.

But in my view, this is a case of swagger married to a powerful commitment to leftist ideology. Take away the “raging bull” persona and I suspect you would still get a speech similar in substance, though different in tone, to the one Obama delivered last night.

Jay Cost, by the way, has written a brilliant new book, to be published on February 10, about the history of political corruption in America. I’ll have more to say about the book when I finish reading my advance copy. However, I can already recommend it, and have put it on Power Line’s shelf.