The Right Opinion

His Terms Are Always Hostile Ones

No one has good faith but Obama. Doesn't this get boring, even to him?

By Peggy Noonan · Jan. 19, 2013

Presidential inaugurations are rare and notable events, coming only once every four years since April 30, 1789, when George Washington raised his right hand and took the oath on the second-floor balcony of New York's Federal Hall.

It's a big day with all its pomp and ceremony, and among its purposes is this: to encourage all who watch to let go, for a moment, of the ups and downs of the political day-to-day and think, for a moment, about the longer arc of our history. A president's inaugural address is a chance to go big and be big – to be thematic and not programmatic, to declare the meaning, as he sees it, of his leadership, to speak of where America is and ought to be. The whole day, from breakfasts to balls, is meant to be, insofar as possible within the confines of human nature, one of democratic fellowship and good feeling.

A president approaching that day will necessarily be, in his spirit, benign, embracing – unifying.

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. Oh wait …

Throughout the press conference the president demanded – they'd “better choose quickly” – that Republicans extend the debt ceiling. Pressed by reporters on whether he would negotiate with them to win this outcome, he made it clear he would not. He would have “a conversation.” Bloomberg's Julianna Goldman asked: “So you technically will negotiate?”

“No, Julianna,” he answered. “Either Congress pays its bills or it doesn't.”

There was a logical inconsistency to his argument. A government shutdown would be so disastrous to the economy that he won't negotiate with Republicans if that's what it takes to avert it.

This, he said, is what will happen if the debt ceiling is not extended: “Social Security checks and veteran's benefits will be delayed. We might not be able to pay our troops, or honor our contracts with small businesses. Food inspectors, air-traffic controllers, specialists who track down loose nuclear material wouldn't get their paychecks.”

Why talk to Republicans when the stakes are so high? They must be the kind of people who like to see planes crash and bombs go off.

Two days later, unveiling his gun-control plan at a White House event, it wasn't only Republicans in Congress who lie: “There will be pundits and politicians and special-interest lobbyists publicly warning of a tyrannical all-out assault on liberty, not because that's true but because they want to gin up fear or higher ratings or revenue for themselves. And behind the scenes, they'll do everything they can to block any common-sense reform and make sure nothing changes whatsoever.”

No one has good faith but him. No one is sincere but him. Doesn't this get boring, even to him?

The president was criticized for surrounding himself with children during the event, but politicians use props and the props are usually people. Was it out of bounds that he used kids? No. Was it classy? No. But classiness doesn't seem to be much on his mind. Perhaps his staffers were thinking less about gun control than warming up his image – “Julia, I will try very hard” – and trying to get people to think of him, after four years, and with his graying hair, as Papa Obama, instead of Irritating Older Brother Who Got 750 On His SATs And Thinks He's Einstein Obama. Which is sort of how half the country sees him.

His gun-control recommendations themselves seemed, on balance, reasonable and moderate. I don't remember that the Second Amendment died when Bill Clinton banned assault rifles; it seemed to thrive, and good, too. That ban shouldn't have been allowed to expire in 2004.

What was offensive about the president's recommendations is what they excluded. He had nothing to say about America's culture of violence – its movies, TV shows and videogames. Excuse me, there will be a study of videogames; they are going to do “research” on whether seeing 10,000 heads explode on video screens every day might lead unstable young men to think about making heads explode. You'll need a real genius to figure that out.

The president at one point asked congressmen in traditionally gun-supporting districts to take a chance, do the right thing and support some limits. But when it comes to challenging Hollywood – where he traditionally gets support, and from which he has taken great amounts of money for past campaigns and no doubt will for future libraries – he doesn't seem to think he has to do the right thing. He doesn't even have to talk about it. It wouldn't be good to have Steven Spielberg or Quentin Tarantino running around shouting “First Amendment, slippery slope!” or have various powerful and admired actors worrying their brows, to the extent their brows can be worried.

On cultural issues, this Democratic president could have done a Nixon to China – the bold move that only he could make without inspiring fierce dissent, the move that could break through.

Instead he did a Nixon to the Orange County GOP.

Maybe the president doesn't operate with as much good faith as he thinks, and maybe the other side isn't as bad as he pretends. As I watched his news conference and his gun-control remarks, I thought, for the first time in a while, that the Republicans are finally getting a break.

He is overplaying his hand.

He does that. He's doing it again.

View all comments


Roland E. Otte in Elizabethton, Tennessee said:

Well said. I can only nod my head and agree with every word, then shake my head and fear for the future of our country.

Saturday, January 19, 2013 at 7:39 AM

Scott Parker in Fayetteville, N.C. replied:

Aww, poor thing. World's smallest violin is playing just for you.

Monday, January 21, 2013 at 9:50 AM

Oathkeeper Scott in Texas said:

This is what grievance mongers do: foment resentment, demonize dissent, cast blame, leverage charisma, and polarize differences as they lead the gullible down the dark path. If he and his minions had sufficient thugs: they'd be rounding us up as dissidents and 'cleansing' the country of our evil presence. Law enforcement and military are truly holding the line, as we circle the drain as a culture and country.

Saturday, January 19, 2013 at 8:09 AM

Scott Parker in Fayetteville, N.C. replied:

Grievance mongers. Ha. You mean like Noonan, Hannity, Rove, all the other rats in the GOP barn. Spare us your petulant, whiny, paranoid rants.

Monday, January 21, 2013 at 9:49 AM

Scott Parker in Fayetteville, N.C. replied:

So you've sworn an oath other than to the commander in chief. Doesn't that make you a traitor?

Monday, January 21, 2013 at 9:55 AM

Ct-Tom in NC said:

"...and from which he has taken great amounts of money for past campaigns and no doubt will for future libraries..."

Haven't you heard, he is cranking up his campaign machinery to gin up enthusiasm for his message that the GOP is the enemy, and asking former contributors (e.g., Hollywood) to pony up again. He may be corrupt, but he ain't cheap.

And, your comment about "assault rifles" indicates that you know little about guns, perhaps as little as Sen. Feinstein. BTW, the ban did nothing last time, except curtail law-abiding citizens' rights. It only makes sense to do it again, right?

Saturday, January 19, 2013 at 8:20 AM

Scott Parker in Fayetteville, N.C. replied:

Guns kill. Ya'll on the right know all about ginning up fear and defining the enemy. Does the name Rove ring a bell?

Monday, January 21, 2013 at 9:52 AM


Scott, STFU!!! Go back to your kool-aid sites! We don't want your comments here.

Monday, January 21, 2013 at 11:03 AM

ClockworkJillian in New York replied:

Another classic zinger from Ready4AChange: The Voice of Reason.

Monday, January 21, 2013 at 8:32 PM

burro in Santa Rosa, California replied:

Well done Scott, you're causing a little Inauguration Day indigestion. Congratulations to our President, Barack Hussein Obama, as he begins his second term as 44th President of the United States.

It's a fine day and one very much worth celebrating. Looking forward to 4 more years of excellent leadership by our President and Commander in Chief, Barack Hussein Obama.

Monday, January 21, 2013 at 12:16 PM


GAG.. GAG... you can have your traitor. May you be the first to rot in hell when you are denied any necessary healthcare due to age or sickness.

Monday, January 21, 2013 at 1:49 PM

ClockworkJillian in New York replied:


If there is a specific element of Obama's inauguration that you take issue with then by all means, enlighten us - I would be genuinely interested as to what insights you might offer.

If, however, your only contribution is to make assertions unsupported by evidence or reason, then I would like to suggest that you indulge in a little introspection. We have a word for those that hold fast to their beliefs, even in the face of contrary facts; that word is 'deluded'.

But don't think I'm insulting you - far from it. I'm being quite genuine, and offering you a chance to change my mind. Would you accept it? Or are already of the opinion that I'm just another facetious liberal, spewing my Commie Pinko talk?

I'll even offer a simple starting point; a test, if you will. On what possible basis can you argue that the man that spearheaded that Affordable Care Act seeks to disenfranchise Americans of their healthcare? Do you have actual evidence supporting this, or is it merely what you feel in your gut?

Monday, January 21, 2013 at 8:03 PM

John in OKC, OK said:

Peggy, Peggy, Peggy,

Look we know every "R" in the media is a RINO, but we aren't going to allow these fools to pass another stupid feel good and absolutely worthless measure that affects only us law biding citizens.

Our "regime change rifles" will retain their normal capacity magazines thank you, even if we have to make them in the garage. What part of WE DON'T *&^%$#@ TRUST THEM OR YOU DO YOU NOT UNDERSTAND?!?!?!?!

Holder and Corzine should both be rotting in prison somewhere. Enforce the *)&*&^%^ law!

Saturday, January 19, 2013 at 9:13 AM

ClockworkJillian in New York replied:

I have a question for you, John: in the unfortunate eventuality that you are called upon to use your 'regime change rifles' and their 'regular capacity magazines', precisely who will you be using them against?

It sounds, for instance, that you believe that the American government may at some point turn on its people. Assuming this to be the case: precisely how effective do you feel your rifle would be against the might of the United States military? That is, after all, who you would be called upon to combat. I fear that your rifle would be of little use against trained soldiers with similar weapons; let alone the far more destructive weapons the US military has access to.

Monday, January 21, 2013 at 8:07 PM

Jay in FL said:

Roi, Loi, Moi.

Saturday, January 19, 2013 at 9:38 AM

Robert M Smith in Jacksonville said:

Ms. Noonan, you are wolf in sheep's clothing. Nothing Obama "recommended" is reasonable or moderate. Further, do you even know the definition of "assault rifle"?

Here are two facts:

1. Legally-owned assault rifles have never been used to commit murder in the United States.

2 .No assault rifles have been made for public purchase in 27 years.

Just come out and declare yourself the Progressive that you truly are.

Saturday, January 19, 2013 at 1:33 PM

richard ryan in Lamar,Missouri replied:

Well said Robert! Every time Miss Piggy looks as if she is about to make a reasonable point, it always ends up leading to some wacko liberal position. She`s a lot like old Scarface Pelosi; totally clueless. Pelosi made the statement recently that she had taken an oath to protect and defend. The problem is she didn`t have a clue as to what she has pledged to protect and defend. How about the Constitution you simple minded old hag? That goes for you as well Pegs.

Saturday, January 19, 2013 at 2:05 PM

ClockworkJillian in New York replied:

But Robert, we both know that 'assault rifle' is a misnomer; an unofficial designation that resulted from the admittedly misdirected efforts of the 1994 weapon ban.

Would you still cleave to your position, and maintain that no such weapons have been used for murderous purposes no sold to the public in the last twenty-seven years, if we simply referred to them as semi-automatic rifles and / or carbines with detachable magazines?

Monday, January 21, 2013 at 8:10 PM

Tod the tool guy in brooklyn ny said:

Nixon used the expression, "My fellow Americans!" That would be refreshing to hear, if only there were a true leader- at 1600 Penn Avenue. Instead we have division, downsizing, demagoguery, Neo-Marx propaganda, incompetence, and renegade/criminal behavior!!!Oil production is at an all-time high,in spite of Barack H. Godzilla!!

Saturday, January 19, 2013 at 3:55 PM

Egypt Steve in Cairo, Egypt replied:

Heh. Nixon also said "I am not a crook." Did you find that refreshing, too?

Monday, January 21, 2013 at 11:57 AM

Vicki G in California said:

Ms. Noonan,

Why is it that each and every week you begin your piece sounding like a reformrd Rhino who has finally seen the conservative light, only to end with something entirely false or misguided? I feel like I am being led down the garden path EVERY SINGLE WEEK! So frustrating...

Sunday, January 20, 2013 at 5:37 PM

Jim Kroemer in Indiana said:

If every time you reach out to pet a dog he snaps at you, no matter how calm your demeanor or soothing your words, eventually you quit trying. Please explain to me how the Republican leadership has earned anything but the President's disdain.

Monday, January 21, 2013 at 8:03 AM

profesorar in Columbus, OH replied:

Exactly, Jim. Peggy Noonan's pearl clutching this week is especially disingenuous. It's clear to the majority of the American people that Republican party leaders have actively shown the President their own disdain and a refusal to negotiate on good faith. This has been going on for four years.

Monday, January 21, 2013 at 8:52 AM

oakland in Michigan said:

Embracing and unifying my foot. The GOP is crazy. Anybody that embraces those crazies ought to have their head examined. For the last 30 years, the GOP has been privatizing government and redistributing up the wealth from the the middle class. The only government expenditures they don't like is the money they don't get. They are capitalists run amok. War profiteering, tax cuts for billionaires, and attacking poor people, black people, and female people is what they do best. What this country needs is another FDR in the White House. Hopefully Obama will dump the Rubinites and take on the real welfare queens in this country - the 1%.

Monday, January 21, 2013 at 8:05 AM

rab in jo,mo replied:

Go back to Leningrad, Comrade! Spew your Marxist BS somewhere else, Pyongyang, maybe?

Monday, January 21, 2013 at 8:19 AM

ClockworkJillian in New York replied:

rab, you raise an excellent point: the current incarnation of the GOP are not, in any way, shape or form, publicly unpalatable. And what better way to demonstrate that this is not the case than to completely ignore the points laid out in the previous comment, and respond instead with a hyperbolic suggestion that the commenter is a Communist? (It worked for Joe McCarthy, after all!)

Monday, January 21, 2013 at 8:17 PM

fred in oregon said:

the "other half" of the country better become united in a hurry. this president is the most egotisticle guy weve ever had. obama is an ISLAMIST!! he will not stop untill he is stopped. and we CAN stop him if our representatives in government,both sides, do their job. i know history, i study it constantly. ive studied islam for 8 years, obama is using their play book very effectivly. but before he can do everything he wants, he must disarm this country. soooooo having said all this, get ready, become really informed, look around you and recognize the wolf at the door. all of this is not just about so called assault rifles, THIS IS ABOUT BEING RULED BY A KING. our forefathers fought,bled and died to remove us from a kings whim. UNITE.

Monday, January 21, 2013 at 8:29 AM

ClockworkJillian in New York replied:

Your ideas are intriguing and I wish to subscribe to your newsletter.

Monday, January 21, 2013 at 8:19 PM

rab in jo,mo said:

The "everyone's against me" act is part of Barry's pathological narcissism. Intended to garner sympathy, after 4 years, it has become annoying.

Peggy, it's not that Barry is the smart kid that scored highly on a test, it's that he claims to be smart, when everyone knows that he cheated his way through the test. Else he would not be trying to force discredited (and failed) economic policies on the people. When it comes to business, this guy couldn't run a lemonade stand at a profit. But alas, it's not his fault (nothing ever is), it's the evildoers working against him that cause his failure.

Monday, January 21, 2013 at 8:40 AM

cekennedy in fort lauderdale said:

You lost the election fair and square. You are the MINORITY view in this country. What a bunch of whiners. Just look at the kooky comments. sheesh. read a book.

Monday, January 21, 2013 at 8:43 AM

Bruce R Pierce in Owensboro, Ky replied:

And we have every right to point out the short comings of the way things are currently run. Remember the Constitution is there to protect the minority from the majority and the "Right to bear arms" is what gives the people the power to back up the “natural laws” Constitution reiterates.

Monday, January 21, 2013 at 9:43 AM

ClockworkJillian in New York replied:

The Constitution does exist, in part, to protect the rights of the minority from the actions of the majority. This being the case:

1. I will assume that you are wholly in favor of gay marriage, which is quite possibly the most clear-cut example of a minority requiring protection from the majority today.

2. I would like to note that protecting the rights of the minority, and imposing the will of the minority on the majority, are not synonymous acts.

3. I believe we are at a technological impasse of sorts in regard to the Second Amendment, as it is all too clear that a well-regulated, rifle-armed militia will simply pose no opposition to the extraordinary weapons afforded to the United States military. Please advise: should we consider de-fanging the military, so that the militia might stand a better chance; or would it be more appropriate to distribute Predator drones and Hellfire missiles to the public?

Monday, January 21, 2013 at 8:23 PM

Ed Walsh in Littleton, CO said:

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

I couldn't agree more. Wait, your talking about George W. Bush, right?

Monday, January 21, 2013 at 9:23 AM

Scott Parker in Fayetteville, N.C. said:

Peggy Noonan. Spectactulary wrong and divisive since the Reagan years.

Monday, January 21, 2013 at 9:53 AM