The reason that the ssh commands were slow and sluggish (had to wait for seconds after enter was pressed to execute the command). There was nothing in the logs (that I could find) to help me identify this issue. I used google and many ideas from different forums without any luck.
I discovered that the changes I did to iptables some time before were wrong. Being a newbie I removed a rule that seamed suspicious (to me this rule looked too permissive):
ACCEPT all -- anywhere anywhere
To fix the issue I added the following rule back to my iptables. “This rule will allow all incoming packets destined for the localhost interface to be accepted.”
iptables -A INPUT -i lo -j ACCEPT