Paul Krugmann in his column of August 29, 2010 in the New York Times, addresses “Witch-Hunt Season,” a replay of “the last time a Democrat sat in the White House” and “faced a nonstop witch hunt by his political opponents.”
After eight years of one of the most – if not the most – corrupt administrations in US history, not to mention arguably the most incompetent – we are back to the witch-hunts. And it is not just President Obama himself who is the target of these attacks, but anyone he appoints or thinks to appoint – even those who already work for him or who support him.
The Republicans respond Immediately; the swift-boating gets under way, the smears, the innuendos and outright accusations of wrong-doing, including – disingenuously – racism.
Because as Glenn Beck established back in 2009, President Obama is a man with “a deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture.”
Things were bad enough for President Clinton; as Krugman reminds us, at one point the Republican-controlled Congress took “140 hours of sworn testimony over accusations that the White House had misused its Christmas card list.”
President Bush said the Constitution was just a “goddamned piece of paper” and used it to wipe his backside, but President Clinton got accused of misusing his Christmas card list. The Republican-controlled Congress never even breathed a whisper about investigating Bush; The Democrat-controlled Congress has refused to even examine the myriad abuses of the Bush administration.
An illegal war against an innocent nation, torture, rendition, attacks on civil rights and habeas corpus, but none of that matters – it’s the Christmas card list. Even oral sex in the Oval Office, while an insult to the dignity of the office, was not a violation of the Constitution, and did nothing to threaten our national security.
But President Obama is in a special place: he is black; our first African-American president. At first they attacked his Christianity for being of a racist variety, based on his pastor. When that became passé, they began to accuse him of not really being a Christian at all, but a Muslim.
Again, Krugman points to this, citing Rush Limbaugh: “Imam Hussein Obama,” is “probably the best anti-American president we’ve ever had.”
Imam Hussein Obama…If you don’t want to use his middle name against him, you can always use his first name.
Glenn Beck rose to the challenge, attacking, “Barack” back in February of this year:
“He chose to use his name Barack for a reason — to identify, not with America — you don’t take the name Barack to identify with America. You take the name Barack to identify with what? Your heritage? The heritage, maybe, of your father in Kenya, who is a radical? Is — really?”
Two years before, on Glenn Beck’s program, Ann Coulter asked the following: “Is Obama a Manchurian candidate to normal Americans who love their country? … Or is he being the Manchurian candidate to the traitor wing of the Democratic Party?”
As Media Matters points out, Coulter “has previously referred to Obama as “B. Hussein Obama” in the past and called him “President Hussein.” She has also compared Obama to Adolf Hitler, calling Obama’s book, Dreams from My Father, a “dimestore Mein Kampf.”
He has been called worse. He has been portrayed as having a watermelon patch around the White House. Rush Limbaugh played “Barack the Magic Negro” on his show many times in 2007 and 2008 and it has since been used by other Republicans.
But we are assured there is no racism involved (Obama is the racist, after all). In fact, conservatives have turned things around and accused the left of being racist. On August 13 of this year, Rush Limbaugh, who just a month before (July 6, 2010) said Barack Obama is president only because he is black – “[Obama] wouldn’t have been voted president if he weren’t black” - stated that “The Democrats are trying to keep black people out of politically powerful positions, it ain’t us.”
This is a poser. Is Rush trying to tell us that it was the Republicans who voted Barack Obama into office, and that Democrats voted against him? Was it attacks from the left and not the right that forced African-American Shirley Sherrod out of her job?
All this might be news to the black voters who voted Democrat in 2008 – fully 96% of them according to exit polls, or to the majority of black voters who are in fact Democrats – not Republicans. Of course, the conservatives forget they already accused THOSE black voters of being racist – voting for Barack Obama only because he was black, like them.
The barrage of attacks has been relentless. Pretending to be a government in exile, the Republicans have done more while hiding at FOX to paralyze the United States government than the Free French did while hiding in London to paralyze the Vichy government of France. Krugman touches on this point as well, saying that “What we learned from the Clinton years is that a significant number of Americans just don’t consider government by liberals — even very moderate liberals — legitimate.”
They’ve gotten to the point where they believe God himself wants them to have control of the US government. Bush believed it, Bachmann and Palin believe it, Angle believes it, and from his rhetoric in Washington this weekend, Beck believes it, even somehow seeing himself as the agent and catalyst God has chosen to implement this change.
How this explains the results of the 2008 election is anyone’s guess.
One of the many examples of these attacks against the government is the smear campaign turned against green jobs czar, Van Jones, who was hounded out of office for being a “radical/communist/black nationalist” who planned to take over the country. Another, more innocuous figure was Shirley Sherrod. As Media Matters tells it,
On August 4, Dr. Kevin Pezzi — a writer for Andrew Breitbart’s BigGovernment.com who Media Matters for America has noted for his absurdly self-aggrandizing claims, racist writings, and sexual inventions including “penile enlargement techniques,” released a two-part screed against former USDA appointee Shirley Sherrod, smearing her as a racist.
As it does so often the White House panicked and Shirley Sherrod was ordered to resign. Only afterward, when the left erupted in protest, did the White House stop to look at the facts.
It is hard to blame the Obama Administration for being oversensitive to this criticism, given the example provided by the fate of the Clinton Administration put under similar pressure.
But then in July 2010 no less a journalist than Sam Donaldson, of ABC News, urged President Obama to stand up to and take on Fox News. Donaldson said, “President Obama, don’t be afraid of them. Take them on, and let the people judge.”
It is clear that the Republicans are not going to cut the Obama administration any more slack than they cut the Clinton. They are going to accuse him no matter what he does, no matter which stance he takes, even if it contradicts previous spin.
Whether President Obama actively engages in a war of words with FOX or other Republican organizations, it is clear that he must thicken his skin and resolve to not buckle under pressure, and to look at the facts before taking any action. It is difficult to regain the momentum once you have surrendered it, and as anyone left of a very Centrist President Obama knows, he is at his best when he stands up to the bully-boy tactics.
So dig your heels in, Mr. President, because they are not going to stop pushing no matter what you do. Might as well prepare for the fight because, as Van Jones said, “They are using lies and distortions to distract and divide” and unless you intend to spend your last two years in office on the run, that’s what you’re going to have to do.