Exclusive: Obama’s Disrespectful Behavior at Ground Zero

by BEN SHAPIRO September 15, 2008


It is difficult to screw up an appearance at Ground Zero on September 11th. You have to be either completely oblivious or completely indifferent. It is a signal feat of idiocy.
And yet Barack Obama accomplished it.
John McCain and Obama visited Ground Zero together. Obama and McCain entered the site. But while McCain took the time to shake hands with uniformed firefighters and a construction worker with an American flag helmet, Obama ignored them and stood around.
But he wasn’t done yet. Both McCain and Obama brought roses to place on the makeshift 9/11 memorial. Obama casually tossed his rose on the memorial, looking somewhat like Don Barzini tossing a rose on Don Corleone’s grave near the end of Godfather I. McCain and his wife, by contrast, approached the memorial gingerly, then placed the roses with care on the memorial. In case you were wondering, Michelle Obama was back in Chicago tending to the children – she somehow has time to accompany Barack to the DNC, but not to Ground Zero on September 11th.
Small gestures matter in large campaigns. That’s why Obama reversed himself on wearing an American flag pin. That’s why John McCain takes care with how he hugs Sarah Palin. In a campaign, everything is analyzed, re-analyzed, and over-analyzed. 
And that’s why Obama’s flower-tossing exhibition matters. It demonstrates a lack of concentration, a lack of respect. Most of all, it displays no reverence. Perhaps Obama feels reverence. But his behavior at Ground Zero didn’t show that. Instead, it showed a man so concerned with himself that he wasn’t willing to take the time to shake hands with the “little people” or bend down to lay a rose on a monument.
That self-concern is at the center of Obama’s polling free fall. He has ranged far afield, away from policy and toward personal combat. He has done that because he cannot stand being personally affronted.
Sarah Palin attacked Obama’s community organizing. Obama responded by sending out his minions to talk about how Jesus was a community organizer and Pontius Pilate a governor. Meanwhile, he blundered into the “lipstick on a pig” controversy.
Obama attacked McCain on education. McCain responded with an ad accusing Obama of supporting comprehensive sex education for kindergarteners in Illinois. Obama came back with an ad talking about how McCain is old and doesn’t use e-mail.
The common thread is this: when attacked substantively, Obama counters personally. He gets angry, and he gets mean. He has read his own press clippings, and he believes them. He is The One. No one is allowed to attack him. 
There are only two problems with such hubris. One is that Americans don’t like it. Arrogance bugs us. Ask John Edwards and Hillary Clinton.
The other problem is that when you believe yourself to be a messianic figure, you have to live up to that image – and you are bound to fail. Presidential politics is a game of attacks and counter-attacks, feints and bluffs, insults and retorts. It cannot be won up in the clouds – it has to be won in the mud. Even if your image demands that you remain the clouds, you will be brought down into the mud. 
And so we see the new Barack Obama. The new Obama is no longer the “united we stand,” rhetoric-blowing giant. He is now the street-smart Chicago politician willing to unsheathe the knife on occasion. Only he’s not that street-smart, and it shows. Obama vowed to bring a gun to a knife-fight. Americans are beginning to realize that Obama’s gun is filled with water.
Obama’s behavior at the 9/11 memorial, then, represented two impulses. First, there was the anger of walking down to the memorial with the man who was sinking his highfalutin’ aspiration’. Second, there was the inability to bend down, even for a memorial. 
And that betrays a disturbing lack of self-knowledge and self-restraint.
FamilySecurityMatters.org Contributing Editor Ben Shapiro, 24, is a graduate of UCLA and Harvard Law School. He is also the author of the recently published Project President: Bad Hair and Botox on the Road to the White House, as well as national bestsellers Porn Generation: How Social Liberalism Is Corrupting Our Future and Brainwashed: How Universities Indoctrinate America’s Youth. Feedback: editorialdirector@familysecuritymatters.org.

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