WASHINGTON – One unmistakable legacy of President Obama’s era is its tone. Call it spontaneity, or spark. Some see it as carelessness, or arrogance.
The president’s recent presentation on the failure of House Republicans to renew the Eisenhower-era Highway Trust Fund in a timely manner could be a case in point.
Standing at a bridge that spans the Potomac in downtown D.C., the president said he didn’t understand why the Republicans haven’t acted. “It’s not that they’re busy with other stuff,” he said.
“As long as they’re doing nothing,” Obama said, according to a report by the blog Politico, “I’m not going to apologize for doing nothing. So sue me.”
The president’s cheering section, including the Washington Post, Time and Slate, thought the sarcasm was just the right response to House Speaker John Boehner’s dopey threat to challenge the president’s overreach in the Supreme Court.
Dopey because even if Boehner had a lawsuit in mind, it would never reach Obama until he left office.
What the president’s increasing use of sarcasm and catcalls risks is growing disrespect for the office itself. This could be reflected in two new polls. Gallup reports public respect for all three branches of the federal government has reached a new low: Congress, 7 percent; the Supreme Court, 30 percent; and the presidency, 29 percent.
A Quinnipiac survey listed Obama as the worst president since World War II. It also said he is the fourth best, so there is a strong partisan divide on Obama.
The spitting match that Obama started over the highway (and mass transit) trust fund is a fight that does not have to happen. Boehner has a minor tea party conflict in Republican ranks over whether the federal government should simply stop paying for highways. States are spending more than is being deposited in the fund, and the money will have to be replenished this year.
It is a ridiculous spat that will be settled in the back rooms of the House. Even the U.S. Chamber of Commerce favors an increase in the federal gasoline tax to finance better bridges, roads and tunnels. The question is how and when the money will be provided, and there was no need for Obama to spend presidential prestige in the way he did, and does.
One has to reach back to President Richard Nixon to find a chief of state who emotionalized and threw around the office’s good will so freely – and that’s when he was facing impeachment.
Just below the surface of Obama’s scoffing at the bridge to Arlington, Va., are 800 American troops being deployed in Iraq, where he said there would be no boots on the ground, five terrorists whom we released for one putative American deserter, legitimizing the terrorist organization Hamas as a Palestinian partner, and now a wholesale assault on this country’s immigration policies with children as human shields. Is this Helter Skelter?
A longer-lasting impact of what this president says is the corrosive influence on our political culture is what Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder don’t say about Lois Lerner.
She was head of an Internal Revenue Service section that screened paperwork for so-called tax-exempt organizations, and persecuted conservative applicants. She partially testified before a House Republican-controlled panel last year, and then refused to continue.
Lerner was cited for contempt of Congress. Holder didn’t move. Now the IRS is claiming all of her emails, and those of six other IRS officials, have been lost. This cries out for a special prosecutor. Holder is not budging. This is banana republic stuff.
Meanwhile, Obama is launching taunts from the Francis Scott Key Bridge.