Presidents speak to all of America and they best build consensus through argument and persuasion—not by singling out political targets, cultivating resentment, questioning motives and mocking differences of principle or political philosophy.
Mr. Obama's bellicosity is no more attractive than Sarah Palin's attempts to pit "the real America" against the big-city slickers. And his rhetorical method seems especially discordant coming from a President who still insists, in between these assaults, that he is striving mightily to change the negative tone of American politics.
If the President and his advisers are wondering why his approval ratings are falling even as the economy is recovering, they might look to his own divisive conduct and the contempt he too often shows for anyone who disagrees with him.
Almost a year ago, in a Washington Examiner column on the Chrysler bailout, I reflected on the Obama administration's decision to force bondholders to accept 33 cents on the dollar on secured debts while giving United Auto Worker retirees 50 cents on the dollar on unsecured debts.
This was a clear violation of the ordinary bankruptcy rule that secured creditors are fully paid off before unsecured creditors get anything. The politically connected UAW folks got preference over politically unconnected bondholders. "We have just seen an episode of Gangster Government," I wrote. "It is likely to be a continuing series."
Goldman Sachs employees gave nearly $1 million to the Obama campaign and $4.5 million to Democrats in 2008. That didn't prevent the Goldman from being shoved under the SEC bus. Gangster Government may look good to those currently in favor, but, as some of Al Capone's confederates found out, that status is not permanent, and there is always more room under the bus.
Ridicule is man's most potent weapon - Saul Alinsky
• Summary of Saul Alinsky's 'Rules for Radicals'
• More Saul Alinsky stories: here
• 'Rules for Radicals' at amazon.com