“You have done enough. Have you no sense of decency?”
by Sunny Berman on Thursday, October 14, 2010 at 5:41pm
You recognize the famous words in my post caption. Boston lawyer Joseph Welch spoke them to Joseph McCarthy during the Army hearings, marking the long-overdue end of McCarthy’s political ascendancy:
As an amazed television audience looked on, Welch responded with the immortal lines that ultimately ended McCarthy’s career: “Until this moment, Senator, I think I never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness.” When McCarthy tried to continue his attack, Welch angrily interrupted, “Let us not assassinate this lad further, senator. You have done enough. Have you no sense of decency?”
I was reminded of those words — and the deep moral condemnation behind that short speech — as I read about the Obama administration’s relentless attack on the Chamber of Commerce. Aside from the staggering hypocrisy behind the attack, and the fundamental stupidity, it also represents a profound moral failing. As Peter Wehner explains, this is an unvarnished abuse of government power:
What we are witnessing is the abuse of power. We are now in a situation in which the president and his most senior advisers feel completely at liberty to throw out unsubstantiated charges and put the burden on people (and institutions) to prove their innocence. Liberals once referred to such tactics as McCarthyism. But Joseph McCarthy, for all his abuses, was “only” a United States senator, one member out of 100. The president and his advisers, on the other hand, have at their disposal far more power and the ability to inflict far more injury.
A lot of people will point to the Alinksy playbook to explain what’s going on here (targeting your enemies) and I don’t disagree. I also think, however, that this has much to do with the narcissism that defines Obama and those closest to them: these are deeply insecure people who can elevate themselves only by stomping down others. (This is why the slap down the administration gets this November won’t change its tune, but will only cause it to sing more loudly.)
Lastly, though, I think what we’re seeing here is a level of bullying that points to a fundamental absence of decency. Obama and his closest allies and advisers consider themselves outside of (and far above) the mainstream when it comes to ordinary norms of behavior.
This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who has been paying attention for the last three years. Throughout his campaign and his presidency, Obama has demonstrated repeatedly that he is nothing more than a garden-variety boor and bully. His behaviors are not about politics (although they help him push his agenda). They are not about Alinksy (although they dovetail nicely with Alinsky tactics). They’re not even about narcissism (although his narcissism is certainly part of the package). Instead, they are about a failure of ordinary decency, the same failure one routinely sees in the schoolyard bully. Some examples:
When Hillary Clinton rather charmingly defended herself against attacks that she was not likable, Obama gave one of the most condescending, sneering, cutting rejoinders I’ve ever seen:
It was that moment when I first realized that I not only disliked Obama’s politics, I disliked Obama.
Obama wasn’t finished. How about the way in which he not so subtly, like a too-clever 10 year old, gave the finger to John McCain, who was not only a political opponent in what should have been an honorable race, but was also an older man and a true war hero?
That was not a coincidence. He’d played the same cute little finger game with Hillary:
As the campaign continued, so did Obama’s adolescent aggression. He took Sarah Palin’s self-deprecating hockey mom joke, and used it as the springboard to call a candidate for Vice President of the United States a pig:
One would have thought that, once out of the fray and into the White House, Obama would have stopped this indecent bullying. But that would have been to deny his own personality. In his very first confrontation with the Republicans, Obama, who had vowed loudly to bridge the partisan gap, shut them down with his usual condescending rejoinder:
President Obama listened to Republican gripes about his stimulus package during a meeting with congressional leaders Friday morning – but he also left no doubt about who’s in charge of these negotiations. “I won,” Obama noted matter-of-factly, according to sources familiar with the conversation.
Okay, maybe we’ll excuse a man flush with the thrill of victory. It could go to anybody’s head, right? But those same demeaning playground taunts kept coming, long after the thrill of victory had subsided.
Indeed, as the thrill of victory settled into the agony of actually having to do something, his innate brutishness got worse. In the wake of the BP Oil Spill, Obama announced that he was on the hunt for someone whose “ass [he could] kick.” I don’t see that one going down in history along with “The Buck Stops Here,” or “With malice toward none, with charity for all.”
Even on occasions that superficially appear innocuous, Obama can’t help but reveal his true self. Many have commented on the arrogance she showed when the presidential seal fell off his podium during a speech he gave at a Fortune Magazine luncheon honoring “powerful” women. While a normal human being might have made a humble or silly joke (“That’s what happens if you forget the Super Glue”), Obama couldn’t resist using the accident as another opportunity to tout his wonderfulness: “That’s all right, all of you know who I am.”
Elihu Perkins, however, noticed something more, and that something ties in perfectly with my thesis here, which is that Obama is a bully of the worst kind, one who enjoys the thought of other people groveling in fear before his all-powerfulness:
If he had stopped there, that might have been the end of it. But he didn’t.
No, he went further, in a remark that has been less reported than the immediate comeback. “But I’m sure there’s somebody back there that’s really nervous right now. Don’t you think? They’re sweating bullets back there right now.”
It was unseemly, the jeer of a bully. The Most Powerful Man in the WorldTM was pointing his finger at some nobody for a minor mishap that could have happened to anyone, at any time.
Jonah Goldberg ascribes moments like this to Obama’s outsize ego, but there is more to this than mere ego. An egotist may tout himself, but he doesn’t routinely feel the need to insult, humiliate, demean or frighten others, especially others less powerful than he is. Even narcissists don’t go that far. They may enjoy demeaning others, but actually frightening them — and clearly enjoying the power they have to strike fear into the hearts of their victims, not because those victims are evil, but because they are less powerful than the speaker — is strictly the provenance of the bully.
Obama, on script, can be gracious “enough,” but off script the mask slips. It is then that Americans can properly gauge both his cruelty and his recklessness. And one devoutly hopes that, in 2012, Americans, who tend not to like bullies, will be sufficient resolute to say to him: “You have done enough. You have no sense of decency. You’re fired.”