Dubber? Uh, dub, that's how Michael Schaffer -- author of the upcoming One Nation Under Dog -- characterizes the beliefs of the Obama-haters out there, in a New Republic article that my "Today at TNR.com" email titled "Why Anti-Obama Hate Will Be So Different Than Anti-Clinton Hate." Dub, are we saying "different than" now? "Anti-Obama haters" -- are they different than -- I'm catching on -- plain old Obama haters or do they hate them too? Why are we contrasting Obama haters only to Clinton haters -- or anti-Clinton haters, if that makes more sense to you -- and not also to Bush haters?
It seems to me that hating the President has been an American tradition for a long, long time. I was going to say ever since the Kennedy assassination, but then I vividly remember people hating JFK. I was 12 years old when JFK was assassinated, and on that day, a school mate asked "Who would do such a thing?" I thought it was an easy question and the obvious answer was: Republicans.
So, yes, it's an American tradition to hate the President, and there are always going to be some people digging up reasons to hate the President -- reasons that are true and false and everything in between.
Whatever its effectiveness ahead of Election Day, the right-wing hate campaign made for a nice exercise in nostalgia. For eight years, opposition politics have mainly involved attacking the president for, like, things he's done or wanted to do in office----and not, say, secret religious view he holds or convoluted murders involving his wife. Now, after an administration in the wilderness, they were back--the conspiracy theorists, the paranoiacs, the fringe figures whose dubious relationships with the truth weren't enough to disqualify them from star turns in the right-wing media. The last Democratic president had spent his White House years in perpetual battle against well-funded crackpots peddling far-fetched theories, and now this one would, too.Oh, so Bush hating belongs in a different category because... the author agrees with it. It was "for, like, things he's done or wanted to do in office." Like, okay, I get it. None of that Bush-hating crap was paranoid, conspiracy nonsense? He was accused of blowing up the World Trade Center!
Skipping ahead in the article:
Once he was living in the White House and flying around on Air Force One, Clinton became a symbol of the country, for better or worse, and attacks on his love for America became a lot less credible. And for all his faults, he also became the rapidly graying man in a suit on TV every night rather than a bearded hippie whose (fake?) marijuana-smoking represented a Main Street worry.As Shaffer sees it, Bill Clinton did some things in office that spurred new nutty conspiracy theories and promoting these theories was more difficult in the days before YouTube. Because of these differences, Shaffer says, Obama hate will leave behind all the crazy theories from the campaign and become what Bush hating has (supposedly) been: critique of any real failures of governing. Happily, then, "the only thing he has to do now is govern well."
The same thing will happen to President Obama. Once he's the man at the lectern with the presidential seal--the real one--he's pretty hard to dismiss as a frightening outsider... In 2009, Obama's [sic] will move elsewhere, too. But where?
Of course, it would be nice if people were sensible and scrupulous about the facts and the conclusions they draw from them. But Shaffer himself falls way short in this very essay, in a respected political magazine, one that presumably has fact-checkers (and editors). I think President-hating will rage on, mixing truth with flakiness, fantasy, nastiness, and anything else anybody wants to offer in the marketplace of ideas.
What Shaffer is selling... I'm not buying.