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Obama 'Unpresidential,' 'Petulant' 'Dividing Us': Langone

Thursday, 28 Jul 2011 | 8:55 AM ET

President Barack Obama's conduct during the debate over the debt ceiling has divided the country and will inflict damage that will last well after the battle is over, former New York Stock Exchange director and Wall Street stalwart Ken Langone said.

Ken Langone
Peter Foley | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Ken Langone

While he believes a debt deal will get done and in fact favors a plan closer to what the Democrats are proposing, Langone told CNBC that Obama's behavior has been "unpresidential."

"He is dividing us as a nation," Langone said. "He's not bringing us together. He's willfully dividing us. He's petulant."

The co-founder of Home Depot sharply criticized the president for promoting class warfare through his repeated attacks against "fat cat" business executives and his targeting of tax loopholes.

In sum, the behavior is symptomatic of Obama's disrespect for the office he holds, Langone said.

"Ronald Reagan would never go into the Oval Office without his jacket on—that's how much he revered the presidency," he said. "This guy worked like hell to be president...Behave like a president. Let me look at you as a model to how we should behave. What does he say? Fat cats, jet airplanes. What is the purpose? Us versus them.

"The thing I fear the most about the future of America is...divide us, we all lose. This has got to stop."

Langone said people with his wealth should pay more taxes, but the debate shouldn't be framed as rich against poor.

"He is not acting presidential. He is behaving in a way designed in my opinion to divide us, to make us look at each other with skepticism, with suspicion. That is the end of America as we know it," he said. "The destruction he is inflicting by his behavior will carry on long after we settle the debt limit."

Nevertheless, Langone said he expects a debt deal to happen as the warring factions will keep battling until the final hour. He suggested that Congress follow the adage of "keep it simple, stupid" when addressing the problem and conveying the solution to the American public.

"The debt ceiling will be raised, number one, by next week," he said. "They'll come to some juncture where they're going to say, 'This is not what I wanted but it's the best I can get.'"

One solution he proposed is higher taxation, particularly for the wealthier in society who are getting benefits they don't deserve from entitlement programs such as Social Security.

Cuts to those programs have been an especially sensitive part in the debate as deficit reducers on the right insist some reform will be needed in entitlements while opponents on the left insist on higher taxes for higher earners.

Langone agrees with the higher taxation argument as long as those revenues are used toward debt reduction.

"People like me have to understand that it isn't business as usual," he said. "I think it's a travesty for a man of my success and my means to get anything from the federal government. I think I should pay more taxes."

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