President Obama’s Gallup presidential approval rating hit rock-bottom over the weekend at 43%. Don’t blame Obama for his unpopularity; it’s the fault of the underhandedness and brutality of his critics. At least that’s the meme emerging from the beleaguered President’s votaries.
Billboards in Missouri and Iowa that likened Barack Obama to Adolf Hitler sparked the President’s supporters to posit that never has the mercury been pushed to such heights by overheated rhetoric.
Joe Conason cries foul that a boardwalk game on the Jersey Shore challenges passersby to pelt a caricatured Obama with a ball, imagining in his column last week that “racial prejudice lurks behind the festering right-wing hatred of President Obama.”
The Huffington Post spotlights a Tea Partier toting a “1-20-13: Obama’s Last Day” bumper sticker, amid numerous photographs of mean-spirited messages to complain about the “offensive” signs at Tea Party rallies.
Do they miss the irony? Did they miss George W. Bush’s presidency?
Before Obama-haters questioned the legitimacy of the President’s birth certificate, Bush-haters spent eight years questioning the legitimacy of George W. Bush’s presidency.
“I think they stole Ohio,” Darrell Anderson, a protestor at Bush’s second inaugural, told me. “I think [Kerry] got enough electoral votes to win, counting Ohio. Believing that Republicans rigged voting machines, Anderson said: “I think the exit polls were correct. They were outside the margin of error. I don’t care what they say, it falls outside the mathematical possibility that there would have been a six-point swing—Kerry being six points ahead to a three-point win for Bush.”
Unhinged comparisons of Obama to Hitler outrage the President’s supporters (and quite a few of his detractors as well). But comparing the President to Hitler was a cottage industry on the left when a Republican sat in the Oval Office.
“I’m here as a vampire giving the Nazi salute because George Bush believes in war,” David Barrows, masquerading-as-Bush-masquerading-as-a-Nazi, explained at a June 2004 International Answer rally at the White House.
“It’s an American flag with a Swastika on it,” was how Cynthia Orr, an Ohio protestor on the National Mall, described her placard at a massive March 15, 2003 demonstration. “It says ‘Bush’s America.’ I believe what Bush is doing is currently becoming a fascist dictator.”
Other harsh assessments made to me at various leftist rallies include: “I think Bush is the new Hitler,” “I see Bush exactly as Hitler,” and “sometimes Hitler comes to mind” when thinking of Bush. When it came to leadership comparisons for Bush, the left’s imagination began and ended with the Fuhrer.
Obama’s critics questioned his handling of the catastrophic BP oil leak on the Gulf Coast but they have never accused him perpetrating an “inside job” that killed thousands.
Bush “definitely knew in advance” about 9/11, noted John Bostrom, a Staten Islander who attended a January 2003 march in Washington, D,C. “It was like when Hitler burned down the Reichstag.”
Chris King, a bearded Vermonter, explained to me at the same event that he suspected 9/11 “was allowed to happen.” “I saw 9/11 as the Reichstag,” King said. “I’ll compare it to what Cassius did to Spartacus back in Rome. I’ll compare it to the Lusitania, to the Maine. I’ll do it, every single time.”
Though President Obama has been subjected to abuse, such as the canards that he is foreign born and a secret Muslim, it doesn’t rank with the vitriol George W. Bush endured. No celebrities vow to emigrate should Obama win reelection, no groundless threats of impeachment or a war crimes tribunal confronts his presidency, and no one intimates that he allowed an attack to take place that killed nearly 3,000 people.
It’s easier to accuse the President of cheating his way to the White House than it is to accept that your fellow countrymen elected a leader that you dislike. It’s politically flattering, but not accurate, to construct intricate conspiracy theories pinning malevolent deeds upon one’s political devil figure.
It’s the simpleton’s modus operandi to compare a politician he disfavors to the most evil figure imaginable. Comforting delusions, rather than hard-to-swallow truths, are the staple at the political margins.
How quickly amnesia sets in when your ox, and not theirs, is being gored. It is the paradox of ideologues that they become mirror images of the very people they imagine their political opposites to be.
One is reminded of Nietzsche: “He who fights with monsters should be careful lest he thereby become a monster. And if thou gaze long into the abyss, the abyss will also gaze into thee.”
After eight years of questioning the legitimacy of the President, calling George W. Bush “Hitler,” theorizing that he was a 9/11 co-conspirator, and threatening to emigrate should the Republican win reelection, the Bush haters are now shocked at the over-the-top rhetoric used against their guy. The rest of America, mouths agape, is shocked at the hypocrisy.