According to the New York Times, on his bus tour in the Midwest, President Obama is “bitterly pointing the finger at his opponents for their refusal to consider any new revenues to tackle the deficit and their insistence on deep near-term spending cuts that will only cause more economic pain. His anger is long overdue.”

I’m delighted the Times is so happy that Mr. Obama is so angry. But here’s something to ponder. Assume that George W. Bush was on a bus tour in the Midwest and accused Democrats of refusing “to put the country ahead of party” because they would “rather see their opponents lose than see America win.” Do you suppose the Times would have praised this as evidence that Mr. Bush was finally engaged, passionate, and “fighting back” (which is what liberals are saying about Mr. Obama now)? Or would they have vilified Bush for accusing his opponents of being “unpatriotic,” of not loving America, and of employing vicious, uncivil rhetoric?

Now for the bonus questions: What individual, on the night of his election, standing atop a stage in Grant Park, reiterated one of the central themes of his candidacy by saying, “Let us resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long.” And who, during the 2008 Democratic National Convention, said, “One of the things that we have to change in our politics is the idea that people cannot disagree without challenging each other’s character and each other’s patriotism.”

If you guessed it’s the same man who during the 2008 campaign gave an interview to Rolling Stone magazine in which he said, “I want us to rediscover our bonds to each other and to get out of this constant petty bickering that’s come to characterize our politics” and “the tit-for-tat, ‘gotcha’ game that passes for politics right now doesn’t solve problems, I want to get beyond that,” give yourself a lollipop.

In one respect, you have to admire Mr. Obama’s audacity. The president and his supporters libel his critics on a routine basis, constantly impugning their motives and their love of America, even as he presents himself as hovering above it all, the only adult in a room full of quarrelling children, bewildered and frustrated at the incivility and fractiousness of American politics. Now and again the president even gives a sermon on the subject. (See if you can recall a single instance in which Mr. Obama strongly reprimanded a Democrat for vitriolic attacks on Republicans or the Tea Party Movement.)

The Times says of Mr. Obama, “His anger is a start.” Actually, it’s been pretty much of a constant for most of his presidency. But it’s the anger of the cool, urbane liberal instead of the anger of a blunt, swaggering conservative, which I guess makes it okay.

In any event, it is rather hard for Mr. Obama to run against the constant, petty bickering that’s come to characterize our politics, especially since he’s a central actor in the squabbles, repeatedly challenging the patriotism of his opponents.

Who knew that deep down Barack Obama was really Spiro Agnew?

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