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And while Mitt Romney goes out of his way to tell audiences he thinks Mr. Obama is a nice guy and a good family man, Mr. Obama doesn’t return the favor. “There was a baseline of respect for John McCain. The president always thought he was an honorable man and a war hero,” a longtime Obama adviser told Glenn Thrush. “That doesn’t hold true for Romney. He was no [expletive deleted] war hero.”

Even Democrats do not escape Mr. Obama’s ire. As Politico reported recently, “It’s no secret that Obama’s relationship with other Democrats has never been great. [C]ongressional Democrats have come to view Obama’s team as a bunch of self-serving dilettantes who know little — and care less — about what it takes to hold or capture majorities.”

This isn’t just a matter of tone. Mr. Obama’s combativeness is an important reason why gridlock seems to define today’s politics and why public trust in government has reached all-time lows.

The White House tends to have an elevating effect on its occupants, but the presidency has had a diminishing effect on Mr. Obama, reducing him to a mudslinger who seems to prefer attacking and defaming his opponents over finding common ground or governing.

Gary Bauer, a former Republican presidential candidate, is president of American Values and chairman of the Campaign for Working Families.