Longtime White House aides have a name for it: “White House-itis.”
It’s a malady of arrogance that grips presidents and their aides as everyone they come in contact with bows and scrapes before them.
What else explains the Obama administration’s transparent disregard for the truth?
The latest example was an opinion piece by David Axelrod, Obama’s senior adviser, in The Washington Post. Axelrod took Karl Rove to task for saying that congressional Democrats “will run up more debt by October than Bush did in eight years.”
Axelrod compared the $236 billion budget surplus President Bush inherited from President Bill Clinton with what he said was a $1.3 trillion deficit Bush handed Obama.
Not once did Axelrod refer to Obama’s wild spending spree that has dwarfed the Bush deficits, which were caused in part by the war on terror and the Iraq war.
Axelrod did not mention that most of the deficit he attributed to Bush was a projection of spending Obama initiated. He did not mention that Democrats have raised discretionary spending by 24 percent, not counting the stimulus package of $787 billion. Nor did he mention the fact that Obama’s binge spending will lead to an increase in the national debt to 76 percent of the gross domestic product by 2019, the highest proportion in 60 years.
If that took chutzpah, it was par for the course for Obama and his aides, who said that Fox News is not a news organization, when anyone who has watched the network knows it is.
In the same vein, Obama repeatedly claims that his healthcare proposal will save money and “bend the cost curve” of rising healthcare premiums. He is right — in the opposite direction. The Democrats’ plan would not only raise premiums, it would raise taxes while reducing the quality and availability of healthcare.
Just as regularly, Obama expresses regret for not making Washington more bipartisan, yet he laces his speeches with gratuitous swipes at Republicans and excludes them from healthcare planning sessions.
Clearly, Obama and his aides have a bad case of White House-itis. As noted in my book “In the President’s Secret Service: Behind the Scenes With Agents in the Line of Fire and the Presidents They Protect,” no one can imagine what it means to be president and how easily the power of the office corrupts.
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To be in command of the most powerful country on earth, to be able to fly anywhere at a moment’s notice on Air Force One, to be able to grant almost any wish, to take action that affects the lives of millions, is such a heady, intoxicating experience that only people with the most stable personalities and well-developed values can handle it.
Simply inviting a friend to a White House party or having a secretary place a call and announce that “the White House is calling” has such a profound effect on people that presidents and White House aides must constantly remind themselves that they are mortal.
“The White House is a character crucible,” Bertram S. Brown, M.D., a psychiatrist who formerly headed the National Institute of Mental Health and was an aide to President John F. Kennedy, tells me. “It either creates or distorts character. Few decent people want to subject themselves to the kind of grueling abuse candidates take when they run in the first place,” says Dr. Brown, who has seen in his practice many top Washington politicians and White House aides.
“Many of those who run crave superficial celebrity. They are hollow people who have no principles and simply want to be elected,” Dr. Brown says.
“Even if an individual is balanced, once someone becomes president, how does one solve the conundrum of staying real and somewhat humble when one is surrounded by the most powerful office in the land, and from becoming overwhelmed by an at times pathological environment that treats you every day as an emperor?
“Here is where the true strength of the character of the person, not his past accomplishments, will determine whether his presidency ends in accomplishment or failure.”
Thus, unless a president comes to the office with exceptionally strong character, the crushing force of the office and the adulation the chief executive receives can lead to arrogance and disaster.
Axelrod closed his Washington Post article by saying that “the course correction that was so badly needed after the previous administration has begun in earnest.” With those words, Axelrod emulated the arrogance of his boss, who often speaks of reducing the deficit while he piles on more spending.
Only those infected by an extreme case of White House-itis would have the gall to make such claims in the face of the administration’s record, which threatens to bankrupt the country.
Ronald Kessler is chief Washington correspondent of Newsmax.com. View his previous reports and get his dispatches sent to you free via e-mail.
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