A pattern of petty contempt

The president can be dismissive, even rude, to leaders he dislikes

Some folks, in an attempt to smear conservatives, have tried to make an issue out of the color of the president’s skin.

In truth, as Michelle Malkin also notes today, the problem may be with its thickness.

It has become clear Mr. Obama is shockingly thin-skinned for a chief executive, and he particularly doesn’t like uppity conservatives, even Republican governors.

Apparently angered by something she wrote in a book about an encounter with him, President Obama last week reportedly walked off from a conversation with Arizona Republican Gov. Jan Brewer when she was in mid-sentence on an airport tarmac – a moment caught on camera.

One could expect them to have a tense relationship. Brewer is no doubt outspoken – an admired quality in some quarters, but an attribute that is more often characterized as “controversial” or worse when it’s a conservative.

Moreover, the Obama administration is essentially at war with Arizona over illegal immigration; Arizona’s leaders are trying to do something about it, while Mr. Obama’s Justice Department is trying to stop them.

But this isn’t the first instance in which this president has been boorish, rude and dismissive of other leaders.

In early 2010, The Telegraph of London wrote, Mr. Obama dropped a list of some 13 demands on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House – and when Netanyahu balked, Obama reportedly rose, brusquely announced he was leaving to have dinner with his family and told the prime minister to let him know if his position changed.

“Netanyahu is being treated as if he were an unsavory Third World dictator, needed for strategic reasons but conspicuously held at arms length,” Jackson Diehl wrote in The Washington Post last year.

Obama also refused to pose for photographs with Netanyahu at the time, a rare and conspicuous diplomatic insult.

In another instance, Louisiana Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal wrote in a book about an unpleasant brush with this president when he arrived in the state during the gulf oil spill.

“I was expecting words of concern about the oil spill, worry about the pending ecological disaster, and words of confidence about how the federal government was here to help,” Jindal wrote. “Or perhaps he was going to vent about BP’s slow response. But no, the president was upset about something else. ... Actually, he wanted to talk about a letter that my administration had sent to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack a day earlier.

“The letter was rudimentary, bureaucratic, and ordinary. ... We were simply asking the federal government to authorize food stamps for those who were now unemployed because of the oil spill. Governors regularly make these sorts of requests to the federal government when facing disaster.

“But somehow, for some reason, President Obama had personalized this. And he was upset.

“There was not a word about the oil spill. He was concerned about looking bad because of the letter. ‘Careful,’ he said to me, ‘this is going to get bad for everyone.’”

We understand how Mr. Obama might disagree with conservatives and Republicans. And no one likes having unflattering things written or said about himself. But he appears to need to grow another layer of skin. Presidents must endure all manner of criticism. And they need to work with governors of both parties to solve the country’s problems together, while treating them – and foreign dignitaries – with the very basics of courtesy.

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