A Third-Class Temperament

Published May 15, 2015

National Review Online

Like cult members who awake to find their leader swigging gin and squirreling money into a Swiss bank account, liberals are rubbing their eyes in disbelief at President Obama’s behavior. The figure they worshipped so fervently and for so long is now revealed to be a “sexist” – at least according to National Organization for Women president Terry O’Neill.

Her view is seconded by Senator Sherrod Brown (D., Ohio). They are upset about the president’s derisive treatment of Senator Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.), who committed a sin to which the president does not take kindly: She disagreed with him. For differing about the merits of the TPP trade deal, she got what everyone should already recognize as the Obama treatment — her views were caricatured and her motives were questioned. “The truth of the matter is that Elizabeth is, you know, a politician like everybody else.” Senator Brown thought the president’s use of Warren’s first name betokened sexism.

No, Senator Brown, that’s not sexism, that’s all-purpose disrespect. The president has been displaying the same condescension to world leaders, Senate majority leaders, House speakers, and everyone else since first taking office. It was always “John” and “Harry” and “Hillary” — never Speaker Boehner, Leader Reid, or Secretary Clinton. It was “Angela” and “David,” not Chancellor Merkel and Prime Minister Cameron. Can’t wait to see whether, when the Pope visits in September, the president refers to him as “Jorge.” There was one exception to this rule — Obama was at pains to refer to Iran’s Ali Khamenei, who has never been elected to anything, as “Supreme Leader.”

It’s hard to think of another figure whose self-esteem is so inversely proportional to his merit.

So welcome to our world, liberals. Now that your eyes are opened, take a look at the completely unjust, snide, and dishonest way Obama talked about Republicans at the Georgetown University panel on poverty a few days ago.

The most fair-mindedness Obama could muster was to say that he believes Republicans care about the poor. But this acknowledgment was quickly vitiated by his insistence that if Republicans don’t agree with him about increasing the tax on hedge-fund managers, they are insincere. If the tax rate on “carried interest” were raised, the president declared, “I” could fund universal preschool.

Um, no. The left-leaning Center for American Progress estimates that raising taxes on hedge-fund managers could bring in $21 billion over 10 years, or a little over $2 billion per year. According to the National Institute for Early Education Research, universal preschool for all three- and four-year-olds would clock in at $70 billion per year (not counting what we spend on existing pre-K programs). Now, I don’t give a fig about hedge-fund managers, but here’s a thought: How much would increasing their taxes really raise? Probably nothing. As John Carney of CNBC showed, they could take their income a different way and avoid the tax.

And really, considering what a great job the government is doing in education, why would anyone believe that universal pre-K would be successful? National Review’s Jim Geraghty notes that Baltimore’s schools spend more per pupil than those of suburban Fairfax County, Virginia, with much worse results.

It’s possible that some of those hedge-fund millionaires and billionaires might contribute money to school-choice scholarship funds and other reforms, as Ted Forstmann, Jim Barksdale, Eli Broad, Michael Dell, David Packard, the Walton family, Donald Fisher, and many others have done.

Mr. Obama flays the rich the way a compass points north, often bizarrely unaware of how he’s embarrassing himself. Regarding the bifurcation of society, he lamented that “those who are doing better and better — more skilled, more educated, luckier, having greater advantages — are withdrawing from sort of the commons — kids start going to private schools; kids start working out at private clubs instead of the public parks.” This, from a graduate of the Punahou School who sends his daughters to Sidwell Friends.

During the discussion, Mr. Obama disparaged John Boehner’s and Mitch McConnell’s interest in helping the poor. So it’s worth recalling that one of Obama’s first acts as president was to seek to defund the District of Columbia’s Opportunity Scholarship Program. When the Democrats controlled Congress, he succeeded. But someone who cared waited for a chance, and when Republicans gained control of the House and Congress was in a tense budget showdown with the White House, John Boehner personally saw to it that the program was revived.

So who is judging whom when it comes to the poor?

— Mona Charen is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. © 2015 Creators.com

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