Opinion: When it comes to bitter partisanship, Obama was king

by Peter Heck · May 20th, 2020 8:23 pm

It felt like old times again, watching a clip of The View ladies fawning and nearly fainting in ecstasy as they gloried in the return of former President Barack Obama to the political scene. After playing a clip of Obama's childish swipe at his successor in an online commencement address, Joy Behar was verklempt:

"I'm giddy about this. I'm really looking forward to watching the brilliant law professor take on the quasi-literate reality show host. This is going to be good!"

Her co-host Sunny Hostin agreed, adding that it was nice to be taken back to a time when America was led by a "compassionate and empathetic and reassuring and funny, intelligent, honest, curious" president.

If we tweak that a bit to say, "petulant, insulting, condescending, needlessly provocative, and divisive," we'd be a tad closer to reality.

Even though this media-driven narrative of an Obama presidency that rose above the fray of partisan bickering endures, it's about as fanciful a rewriting of history as you'll find. Besides paying infrequent lip service to the idea, it's not as though Barack Obama ever even attempted to market himself as a national unifier.

Those who sip from the goblet of Saul Alinsky community agitating, after all, understand unity isn't the quickest or most effective means of attaining and consolidating power. That's why from the earliest days, the Obama presidency became synonymous with political polarization and ideological condescension.

Remember it was Obama that declared upon taking office that Republicans would be welcome to come along for the ride, "but they gotta sit in back." Rather than seeking to build consensus he pushed through extraordinarily controversial legislation on strict partisan lines and then spiked the football by reminding everyone, "Elections have consequences, and I won."

When it came to race relations, Obama was no healer. To the contrary his propensity to wade into tense moments without any firm understanding of the facts inflamed situations and stoked distrustful passions. From declaring the police had "acted stupidly" when in fact they hadn't at all, to emotionally proclaiming that victims of shootings look like the son he never had, let's disavow ourselves of the absurd pretense that our former president sought peace.

While we're at it, let's stop pretending that presidential name-calling is an advent of the current administration. Mockery and derision was a favorite weapon the eight years prior to Trump, with echoes of "teabaggers" and "bitter clingers" still cascading down Pennsylvania Avenue in the patented halting tones of president 44.

Just how entrenched was this unflattering haughtiness? Obama lacked the grace and class of his predecessors in being able to take the higher post-presidential road. Whether he's out bizarrely ridiculing those who oppose climate change legislation as suffering from "mommy issues," or hypocritically prattling on about the lack of compassion in throwing immigrant children in "pens" that his administration built and used for the same purposes, the arrogance has not subsided since the close of 2016.

Though precisely no one expects it from the left-wing ladies at The View, any fair or rational observer recognizes the manifestly obvious reality that Trump and Obama are two sides of the same coin. Different policies, but exact same approach to dealing with critics and political opponents (though to be fair to Trump, no evidence has yet surfaced that he co-opted the IRS to punish those who criticized him like Obama did).

The View's lone conservative voice, Meghan McCain did thankfully summon the courage of William Wallace to point out the obvious to this gaggle of progressive pundits:

"The culture war that I believe is real, and is raging in this country, I believe was ushered in with his administration," she said of Obama, "and then exacerbated in the Trump administration."

She's absolutely correct. Trump was the anti-Obama. After years of being bullied by the smooth-talking Chicagoan, the right went out and hired a bully of their own. Any criticism of Trump's tone and the portion of the electorate that empowers it must begin with an equal criticism of Obama's contemptible conduct to be valid.

Any expectation that such good faith would be forthcoming from the left was thoroughly bludgeoned to death when "reporter" Soledad O'Brien showed up to defend her god-king:

She learned from the master of demonizing your opposition. And in case you're wondering, that wasn't Trump.

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