It is a sad, but unmistakable, racist, spectacle: As Barack Obama’s presidency heads into its twilight, the rage and hate on daily display within the Republican establishment toward him is growing louder, angrier and more destructive. And let’s say here what everyone knows to be the truth but hates it when you say it (the same way roaches hate it when you turn the lights on); the reason is not just because he is black; it’s because he’s black and they still cannot beat him.
From the very first, “You lie!” shouted at the 2009 State of the Union address by Joe Wilson, (R-South Carolina) assistant House Whip, in a terrible and unprecedented breach of decorum not seen since the days of the Old Confederacy (as opposed to the present day group of trash), Republican lawmakers in Washington and around the country have been focused on blocking Mr. Obama’s agenda and denigrating him personally since the day he took office in 2009.
But even against that hideous framework, and even by the dismal standards of political discourse today, the tone of the current attacks is disquieting–what some consider as seditious and radical as the Jim Crow era–and so is their obvious bent on undermining not just Mr. Obama’s policies, but his lawfulness as president.
One would consider, no, expect such lack of ethics and self-importance from Fox News “personalities”…it is, after all, how they continue to make the ad dollars; by saying what their bigoted, white constituency has come to demand.
It is a line of propaganda that echoes Republicans’ earlier questioning of Mr. Obama’s American citizenship. Those attacks were blatantly racist in their message — needlessly reminding people that Mr. Obama was black, suggesting he was African, and relentlessly planting the equally false idea that he was secretly Muslim. The current aggressiveness is slightly more subtle, but it is impossible to dismiss the perception that race plays a role in it.
Perhaps the most disgraceful, not to mention unlawful, example of the attack on the president’s legitimacy was a letter signed by 47 Republican senators to the leadership of Iran saying Mr. Obama had no authority to conclude negotiations over Iran’s nuclear weapons program. It’s not difficult to imagine the outrage from Republicans (and Fox “News”) if a similar group of Democrats had written to the Kremlin in 1986 telling Mikhail Gorbachev that President Ronald Reagan did not have the authority to negotiate a nuclear arms deal at the Reykjavik summit meeting that winter.
There is no serviceable difference between that example and the Iran talks, except that the congressional Republican caucus does not like Mr. Obama and wants to deny him any policy victory, regardless of the historical precedent for the necessity of such agreements.
On April 3, Colbert King, a Washington Post columnist summarized a series of actions by Republicans attacking the president’s authority in areas that most Americans thought had been settled by the Civil War.
For example, Arizona legislators have been working on a bill that “prohibits this state or any of its political subdivisions from using any personnel or financial resources to enforce, administer or cooperate with an executive order issued by the president of the United States that has not been affirmed by a vote of Congress and signed into law as prescribed by the United States Constitution.” The bill sounds an awful lot like John C. Calhoun’s secessionist screed of 1828, the South Carolina Exposition and Protest. Laurie Roberts of The Arizona Republic wrote that it was just “one of a series of kooky measures aimed at declaring our independence from federal gun laws, from the Affordable Care Act, from the Environmental Protection Agency, from the Department of Justice, from Barack Obama.”
Republicans defend this sort of action by accusing Mr. Obama of acting like a king and citing executive actions he has taken — on immigration and pollution among other things. But the same Republicans had no objection when President George W. Bush used his executive authority to authorize the torture of terrorism suspects and tap the phones of American citizens. It is not executive orders the Republicans object to; it is Mr. Obama’s policies, and, of course, despite being a sitting President, Mr. Obama himself, on a personal level. This type of behavior would have never been tolerated by George W. Bush’s hatchet-man, Dick Cheney, and the offenders would still be in a black ops rendition site in a desolate region of Siberia.
Rather than support a twice-elected President of the United States, these Republicans have verbally and vociferously supported Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukrainian sovereign territory, the confiscation of Nebraskan landowners’ rights, and the region’s precious fresh-water supply
The Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, who declared war on the new president in 2009 as minority leader and used the filibuster to paralyze the Senate, essentially told foreign governments to ignore the carbon-emission goals Mr. Obama was trying to set by international agreement. Because climate-change deniers in Congress and in some states oppose the effort, setting those goals is pointless, Mr. McConnell pronounced last month.
If this insurrection is driven by something other than a blend of ideological extremism and personal animosity, it is not clear what that might be. But it is ugly, it deepens mistrust of government, it deepens the mistrust and animosity from other nations—most noteworthy, our own allies—and commit seditious actions against our own government, commit heinous, unprecedented and previously unsupported disrespect for our own President, it emboldens our enemies by showing the willingness of one faction of our government to defy and it harms the office of the president, not just Mr. Obama.
Perhaps Thurgood Marshall said it best:
There is a price to be paid for division and isolation.
Democracy cannot flourish amid hate.
Justice cannot take root amid rage.
We must dissent from the indifference; We must dissent from the apathy; We must dissent from the fear.
Harvey A. Gold