William Katz:  Urgent Agenda

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QUOTE OF THE DAY – AT 11:14 A.M. ET:  It comes from Peggy Noonan, who, of course, was one of Ronald Reagan's prize speechwriters.  She assesses, with sadness, the fact that Barack Obama, who should be trying to unite the country around him, is actually dividing it with a cutting, rather mean-spirited approach.   From The Wall Street Journal:

So here is what is utterly remarkable: President Obama has been using the days and weeks leading up to his inauguration to show the depth of his disdain for the leaders of the other major party and, by inference, that party's voters, which is to say more or less half the country. He has been spending his time alienating instead of summoning. It has left the political air more sour and estranged.

As a presidential style this is something strange and new. That has to be said again: It is new, and does not augur well.

What was remarkable about the president's news conference Monday is that he didn't seem to think he had to mask his partisan rancor or be large-spirited. He bristled with unashamed hostility for Republicans on the Hill. They are holding the economy "ransom," they are using the threat of "crashing the American economy" as "leverage," some are "absolutist" while others are "consumed with partisan brinkmanship." They are holding "a gun at the head of the American people." And what is "motivating and propelling" them is not a desire for debt reduction, as they claim. They are "suspicious about government's commitment . . . to make sure that seniors have decent health care as they get older. They have suspicions about Social Security. They have suspicions about whether government should make sure that kids in poverty are getting enough to eat, or whether we should be spending money on medical research."

And yet, "when I'm over here at the congressional picnic and folks are coming up and taking pictures with their family, I promise you, Michelle and I are very nice to them."

You're nice to them? To people who'd take food from the mouths of babes?

Then, grimly: "But it doesn't prevent them from going onto the floor of the House and blasting me for being a big-spending socialist." Conservative media outlets "demonize" the president, he complained, and so Republican legislators fear standing near him.

If Richard Nixon talked like that, they'd have called him paranoid and self-pitying.

COMMENT:  The basic problem, it seems to me, is that Obama never had the size to be president.  He is, bottom line, a small-time politician with a golden voice.  He presents himself very well, but there is not much substance, and certainly not much curiosity.  He has led, especially for a man of color, a very sheltered life. 

He is also a very cold man.  You get the sense that he feels for nobody except himself.  Some 60,000 people have been murdered in Syria and he doesn't bat an eyelash. 

The fact that he can make an in-your-face appointment like Chuck Hagel, when so many better qualified people were available for secretary of defense, tells the story.  Ronald Reagan considered his political opponents as opponents.  Obama considers his to be enemies.

Yes, there's a bit of Nixon in him.

January 20, 2013