The Cloth

Me auld mither had an expression, “It’s not the man but the cloth”, generally used to explain why she wouldn’t express open disrespect for someone in a position of responsibility. I think that ties directly to Bret Stephens’s catalog of explicit or implicit expressions of disrespect of President Obama on the part of leaders in Russia, Iran, Israel, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia.

Frankly, I think that at least in part they’re taking their cues from the open expressions of disrespect for the president being shown by his political opponents. Such expressions should be kept in the family and in a world in which even the most off-the-cuff utterance can make its way around the world in milliseconds, that’s darned hard to do.

So disagree, even vehemently, but don’t disrespect. If not for the man, for the cloth.

7 comments… add one
  • michael reynolds

    I don’t think Obama cares. I think he’s a very secure person. That can lead to smugness, and has sometimes in his case. But Obama can’t really be baited.

  • TastyBits

    This was no different under President Bush. When writing or speaking, the president should be given his proper rank. He is not your drinking buddy.

    Many people attack the person because they cannot formulate an argument. They cannot separate ideas into constituent parts. It is also far easier and more pleasurable to attack the person.

  • steve

    Attacking the man is pretty silly unless you know him personally. His image, both positive and negative, is manufactured by the PR people and media. Most of us have no idea what Obama is really like, or what Bush was really like or any President.


  • michael reynolds


    I disagree a bit. I think a lot of people see the world as distorted through very thick lenses of prejudice, seeing only what they wish to see. But I don’t think that’s everyone. I think in time most people will have a pretty fair idea about Obama.

    He’s the guy we called when the country went into a ditch. The drivers of that car – Republicans – are angry and defensive. They can’t stand that they failed so publicly and spectacularly. And yet, the car was clearly in a ditch and they were clearly driving.

    Now the car is in the shop, it’s never going to look quite like new, and there’s a hefty bill. Which makes the drivers even angrier. Angry at the roads, at other drivers, at the repairman. They will never, ever love Obama. Just like Republicans never made peace with FDR. Just like pre-1968 Democrats never made peace with Lincoln. No one ever loves the guy who has to clean up their mess.

    But the rest of us – the people who weren’t driving the car and thus were not humiliated that someone (a negro!) had to haul us out of the ditch – will have a very different view. To us Obama will be the president who saved us from economic meltdown, got us out of two wars, and ensured that illness would no longer equal destitution.

    My opinion of Obama is pretty much what it’s been from the start. Smart, capable, disengaged, arrogant, persistent, graceful, cautious, unfriendly, confident, flexible, disdainful, moderate, calm. Not my ideal president, but a huge improvement over the unintelligent, close-minded, swaggering, insecure man-child he replaced.

  • PD Shaw

    “No matter how healthy a man’s morals may be when he enters the White House, he comes out again with a pot-marked soul.” (Mark Twain)

  • PD Shaw

    I found Stephens’ catalog to be too boring to finish. It appears to be the discontents of the dissatisfied and degenerate. I question how much of it is directed towards Obama personally or the U.S.

  • steve

    michael- You are a heck of a lot more certain about him than I am.


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