“When [President Obama] talked about Romney, aides picked up a level of anger he never had for Clinton or McCain, even after Sarah Palin was picked as his running mate. ‘There was a baseline of respect for John McCain. The president always thought he was an honorable man and a war hero,’ said a longtime Obama adviser. ‘That doesn’t hold true for Romney. He was no goddamned war hero.’”
-- Politico’s Glenn Thrush in a forthcoming book, “Obama’s Last Stand.”
There’s apparently more to the president’s intensely negative re-election campaign than just a desire for a second term.
According to a book due out later this month by Glenn Thrush, a Politico writer with deep connections inside Obamaland, Obama really, really doesn’t like soon-to-be Republican nominee Mitt Romney.
Excerpts from the book detail Obama’s hyper-competitive streak and how he feels that Romney is undeserving and “quickly developed a genuine disdain” for the Republican.
Democrats had long complained that President Obama was too cool and too aloof from the down and dirty of politics. But Thrush depicts the president, who styles himself as a cerebral policy wonk, as a political gladiator intent on winning. Part of what has Obama’s fighting spirit up, advisers told Thrush, is personal resentment against Romney.
Democrats may thrill to the thought of the president disdaining a rich-guy Republican, but this kind of animus is often unhelpful in politics.
There is evidence that more than four months and many millions of dollars devoted to scorching, character attacks on Romney have taken their toll on the presumptive GOP nominee, there’s also plenty of evidence that Obama is paying a price.
Negative ratings on both candidates have been on the rise in polls of late as Obama launches personal attacks on Romney on the stump and in television ads. It’s helping to define Romney, but it’s also changing the definition of the president from one who seeks to elevate politics to one of the harshest practitioners of the “politics of personal destruction.”
Romney has a long history of infuriating his opponents. Veterans of the 2008 and 2012 Republican primaries recount how rivals – particularly Rudy Giuliani – found the moderate, mild-mannered former Massachusetts governor to be infuriating.
While most people in politics are drawn to the field because they are intensely social animals. Not Romney. He opted to follow his father’s footsteps into politics, but he does not seem to crave contact the way natural politicians do. That’s what infuriated his GOP rivals. Everything with Romney and his team is all business and very chilly.
As Romney was shelling Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich with negative ads in the GOP primaries, he spoke with clinical detachment about his rivals. What could be more frustrating than a guy who is torching you on television but who doesn’t care about you enough to actually hate you? Those feelings got the better of both Santorum and Gingrich, neither of whom could resist swinging too hard at the frontrunner.
Part of the resentment also come from the fact that most successful politicians are social climbers – people who used politics as a way up in American life. Romney was born in the political and economic elite. And while he capitalized his advantages to a remarkable degree, and is certainly no dissipated child of privilege, Romney’s silver-spoon upbringing infuriates climbers like Giuliani, Santorum, Gingrich and, apparently, Obama.
How much of the unprecedented negativity of Obama’s re-election bid stems from personal animus and how much is the cold calculation of politics? Who knows, but those kinds of resentments often drive people to lose perspective.
The other danger is what animus like what Obama feels toward Romney does to the culture of a campaign.
In 1170, Thomas Becket, archbishop of Canterbury, was locked in a struggle with King Henry II over the power to pick priests and other struggles with Rome. Henry’s anger at the defiance of Becket boiled over, allegedly causing to fume “Will no one rid me of this pestilent priest?”
Some entrepreneurial goons, sensing an opportunity, headed down to the cathedral and offed Becket. This was the worst thing for Henry, who was forced to cut a deal with the pope and bow to the power of Rome to placate citizens horrified by the thought of an archbishop slaughtered before his own altar.
When Hillary Rosen attacks Ann Romney or Stephanie Cutter wonders aloud whether Mitt Romney is a felon, it reflects a campaign culture that starts with the man in charge. The longer the race goes on, the deeper those resentments will become and the more danger there will be of intemperate actions by Obama team members.
Thrush’s book will serve as more evidence to the denizens of Obamaland that Romney is beneath their respect. That could be very dangerous once the hand-to-hand combat begins in a few weeks.
Chris Stirewalt is digital politics editor for Fox News, and his POWER PLAY column appears Monday-Friday on FoxNews.com. Catch Chris Live online daily at 11:30amET at http:live.foxnews.com.