Republicans are their own worst critics. Some may spin losses into victories and bad showings into acceptable, but by and large when the GOP performs badly, its rank and file have much less problems than Democrats in letting their party know.
That is why the chorus of support for the Republicans in the health care summit yesterday was so gratifying. You could follow comments on Facebook, normally the home of the more anti-party conservatives and there was general agreement on two things. First, the Republicans conducted themselves much better than could be expected, since their role was ritual slaughter. They remained feisty, got ideas on the table, and neither lost their cool, nor capitulated.
Second, they succeeded beyond their wildest dreams in making Obama look like an ass. Check that. They allowed the president to do that all on his own.
He was blatantly rude to John McCain. McCain tried to perform his usual role of trying to explain to Obama where the Republicans were coming from in the spirit of genuine bipartisanship that rankles more conservative and libertarian folks. Obama cut him off to remind him that the presidential campaign was over. A shocked McCain responded that he was reminded of that fact daily.
Then the rudeness took a bizarre turn when Obama cut off his own vice president, then seemed to snub Biden's approach at the end of one of the meetings. In the very next session, Biden gave a monologue that struck many as incomprehensible. Remember what Obama once said "Nobody messes with Joe."
This was supposed to be, as Biden predicted, "pure theatre" but Obama was supposed to be the director, producer, and star of the stage. Republicans were supposed to perform their roles as teh black hat villains of the piece, perhaps even shouting "you lie!" again. But it was Obama who blatantly accused the Senate Minority Leader of lying, not disagreement over interpretation, but of lying.
Obama seemed to be looking for that gotcha moment, such as when Lloyd Bentsen attacked Dan Quayle over a mention of John F. Kennedy, or Reagan announced that he was paying for the microphone and he would set the rules. Obama even announced at one point that he could be late because he's the president and does not need to count time. In a campaign, taking risks to sound feisty scores points. At this point, Obama looks more like that arrogant ass of a professor that most undregrads try to avoid because he revels in making anyone around him look stupid while showing off his intellect.
Right now, almost all of Obama's political polls have fallen below 50%. The only one that remained high was likeability. Being likeable helped get George W. Bush re-elected despite a lot of misgivings over his policies and especially the war. Did you ever see Bush publicly insult an elected official in either party, or speak about anyone disrespectfully? Certainly in private he could show his temper and did, but he never spoke down to people.
Obama constantly speaks down to people, both Republicans and Democrats. He showed unnecessary disrespect to Bill Clinton in front of a congressman from Arkansas who was what they used to call an FOB (friend of Bill.) The only people he deems worthy of respect are the guys on his staff who are even more disrespectful and rude. Even during his campaign, reporters complained of the rudeness of Obama and his staff, compared to the unfailing politeness and access of McCain and his people. At this stage, a conflict between Obama and McCain in the media might not go Obama's way.
The problem Obama faces on the heels of this so-called summit was his utter lack of presidential decorum. If the goal was to play hardball, put a hardball player in charge of the meeting. Try to rise above the fray. At least act like a president instead of a cranky professor or an irritated sewer committee chairman.
One more thing. The IOC needs to back off of the Canadian women's hockey team. They won a gold medal in the Olympics. Before this year that was considered a cause for celebration. Last week an American athlete was dispatched home after a picture turned up of a girl kissing the gold medal hung around his waist. This week the hockey team celebrated with champagne and cigars in the locker room (provided by whom? Probably some Olympic committee somewhere!) They were asked to return to the ice for pictures and they complied, some bringing their champagne and cigars with them.
The swig of champagne to celebrate a victory is traditional, at least in North American team sports. These women may never get the chance again to be world champions. What harm does it do to relax for five seconds and let these girls enjoy the moment? What harm would it do for the IOC, for once, to just keep its mouth shut when someone wins and enjoys it?
Now the IOC is investigating the drinking and smoking in public, especially since one of the women was 18 and under the British Columbia drinking age of 19. Yes, this is the big scandal. Not the death of an athlete on a dangerous track. Not the questionable judging of a number of events. Not the weird snub of an American skater for whatever reason. This is the big scandal.
The IOC is considering banning the Canadian team, today the pride of the host nation, from the closing events. If they do this, every Canadian holding a ticket should refuse to show as well, but not give the ticket away or sell it. Let the mass of empty seats be a protest.