I recently had what seemed like an essentially pointless argument on one of my posts. It centered around which President was abused the most, Bush or Obama?
I make the case, without hesitation, that it is Obama who has suffered the slings and arrows of outrageous partisanship far more than any president, but my “foes” contend that it was as bad, if not worse, for George W.
To me, the differences seem obvious, but this is where the partisan argument begins and simultaneously derails.
I believe that Obama has been the victim of a conspiracy to destroy his presidency and that the networks to create and deseminate false information, along with a willingness to propagate that information, are infinitely wider.
Those who tend to agree with me are now saying, “Yes!” and those who consistently disagree are surely crying, “You’re crazy! That’s just your partisan bias!”
So, I’m going to offer some historical perspective on my “bias.”
My “political consciousness” was awakened during the Nixon administration. I was a “tweenie” and I easily slipped into the armor of rebelliousness and so I took my cues from the left side of the debate. Far too young to protest I nevertheless wore my “McCarthy” button to school, and later “Kennedy” (Robert) and then “Humphrey.”
When Nixon won (by a nose) it was, to many student protesters, as if Mussolini had risen from the dead. As images of Nixon were burned in effigy on college campuses it seemed as if “Truth and Justice” were making a statement against “Tyranny and Corruption.”
Mind you, I did not take part in any of this, but the consciousness of young America rose in defiance against Nixon and it felt like the conscience of America.
After Nixon’s re-election, when Watergate was revealed, it seemed as if all the protest, defiance and anger had been justified. I think to some extent a lot of protesters were surprised at the fact that their suspicions were so correct, yet most felt victorious because they knew they had been right. Nixon toppled and half of America felt vindicated.
Popular culture said that it was now good to be a liberal and bad to be a conservative. The liberals had previously lost their hold on middle America by associating policy with rebellion and alienated America’s center, paving the way for Nixon’s victory, but as the first Republican/Conservative out of the box since Eisenhower (a moderate Republican) his paranoia and perceived villainy screwed the pooch and a Democrat won the White House again.
I was young and proud of being a liberal, but I also wanted America to heal and I liked the man who assumed the office when Nixon resigned. I voted for Gerald Ford in my first opportunity to vote in a national election. I wanted integrity in the White House no matter how questionable a leader Ford might have been and I accepted the Pardon he gave Nixon, despite the angry protest from the left. I wanted the bad stuff to be over and I wanted to get on with being a proud nation again.
And that’s why I voted for Carter in 1980. I was not voting for strong leadership then either, I was voting for integrity and intelligence and Ronald Reagan appeared, to me, to be a far right reactionary, poised to light the arch-conservative torch that had been extinguished. I saw a hawk.
I had to accept, however, that Reagan won in a landslide and while certainly he witnessed his share of protests, the radicals on the left were now “fringe” and most of the liberal pack had moved toward “moderate”; it was, after all, “Reagan Democrats” who assured his victory.
There was, to be sure, always a strong anti-Reagan contingent that never backed down, but radical protest, in general, was no longer front page news and Reagan’s personality was able to buoy his popularity even when questionable matters arose. This is where I began to pay serious attention.
Reagan lowered marginal rates and even the lowest wage earners praised him as the Great Tax Emancipator, but he then did something sneaky to overcome the deficit discrepancy. Two bills passed in 1982 and 1984 that together constituted the biggest tax increase ever enacted during peacetime. The bills didn’t raise more revenue by hiking individual income tax rates, they made it tougher to evade taxes, and through “base broadening” which reduces various federal tax breaks and closes loopholes.
More asset sales became taxable and tax-advantaged contributions and benefits under pension plans were limited, but, because the upper class primarily profits from capital gains and still have shelters available to them, they were essentially unaffected. In the middle and on the bottom, however, it was a much different story. It was the perfect application of neoliberal economics, call it Trickle Down or Supply Side, it was a shell game of crony capitalism that widened the gap as the breaks that benefitted the salary/wage earners were taken away.
The fact that so many people were endeared by him is no mystery, but out of Reagan’s nobler cause emerged the neo-con henchmen like Cheney, Pearl, Armey, and Wolfowitz, who seized his agenda and turned it into self-serving cronyism, designed to keep them in pearls until the Second Coming.
His neophytes engineered the Iran/Contra scandal and I became convinced that this administration was even worse than Nixon’s. Iran/Contra, for those who may have dismissed it as a minor footnote in our history, was anything but. It was American Imperialism at its worst; breaking our own law in order to serve a foreign policy agenda that was itself, immoral.
Yet Reagan walked away in his aw-shucks, self-deprecating manner by saying he should have known what was going on and is sorry that he didn’t.
Reagan’s foreign policy and economic Two-Step was masked by the fact that production levels increased and a recession was diverted, but the bill for the dance eventually comes due. Business expanded as the wealthy withdrew their profits and increased their holdings, but the “demand” side of the equation, that carried the greater burden, could no longer sustain purchasing and the tab was presented as a new recession began in 1990.
George HW Bush was now in office (on the popularity of the Reagan Revolution) but he lost his re-election when he betrayed his promise of “no new taxes” by raising them. An opening was plenty wide for William Jefferson Clinton to talk his way into American’s hope for prosperity.
It was no wonder the neo-cons hated Bill Clinton. Clinton was a moderate with the charm of Reagan but he was not on their side; and he had an agenda to take the prosperity neo-liberalism creates for the wealthy and to share it with America.
As I argue regarding what president has endured the most ridicule, it seems that many have forgotten the attack that was leveled on President Clinton. The neo-cons found his weakness (personal integrity) and spent tens of millions of OUR tax dollars trying to bring him down. The stain on a dress became front page news over the budget surplus.
When George W Bush became president, a lot of us were angry over the attacks that defined Clinton’s time in office and we were poised to make the new Republican president squirm. The fact that the election was suspect from the start, loaded our cannons, but soon 9/11 blindsided us all and diffused the brewing hostility.
Bush’s popularity initially soared over political and economic lines, but when he squandered the unity the world offered with his Cowboy Diplomacy and led us into a manufactured war, the left re-emerged with a vengeance.
The economy bottomed out, he bailed out the banks and approved the stimulus, but when Obama was elected, and after a honeymoon that lasted less time that the post 9/11 bridal dance with Bush, was over, the right wing started beating the drum that this is Obama’s economic failure, that he bailed out the banks and that the stimulus plan was all his.
The argument against Obama was in full stride after only two months in office and it was not based on a suspect election, economic decisions that contributed to an epic collapse, an unjustified war or arrogant foreign policy; it was based on the fact that it was Barack Obama, a Democrat and if God Forbid, his presidency is successful after Republicans tanked, they would not be back in power for…who knows…?
Fox News had already annointed The Tea Party as the official voice to propagate an irrational message that would resonate with a frightened public. They protested tax raises that hadn’t occurred, they cried that Obama was nationalizing the banks and industry while blind to the fact that it was all initiated under Bush. And because Obama made good on an election promise to reform healthcare with the hope that people wouldn’t have to file bankruptcy because of illness, they screamed, “Socialism!”
Birthers emerged from the fog of hysteria and marginalized our President in every way they could. “He wasn’t born here, he’s not a Christian- he’s a Muslim (and all Muslims want to kill us, right?).
After 3 months the right wing drums added cymbols: “When is he going to stop blaming Bush?!”
At 9 months: “This is Obama’s recession! Look at the mounting debt!” (Never mind that its two wars and the deepest Recession in 80 years that created it and never mind that every economist on the planet said things would get worse before getting better).
After 2 years: “Obama wants to raise the Debt Ceiling!” (Never mind that Bush raised it 13 times. Reagan did, as well, and he also tripled the national debt and used deficit spending as economic stimulus so as not to compromise our national credit rating. Just as Obama intended.
It has been insanity since Obama took office and very little real information has entered the national debate.
Mudslinging has always been part of politics and no President has served unscathed, but, I believe the bar of indecency has been raised ten fold in the past 4 years. I must admit that I hated seeing images of George Bush vilified and burned in protests and I often remarked that it accomplishes nothing and only diminishes the protest, and when I saw images of protestors in foreign countries doing the same, I was disgusted, because he was, like him or not, my President.
I’m not seeing that latitude being extended from the right wing toward President Obama.
To conclude the premise that this post began with on a personal note, I am capable of objectivity in my discourse. I have a history of observation from which I draw my conclusions and I am capable of criticizing even the presidents I have voted for, and using rational arguments to oppose those that I haven’t.
I am not seeing the same objectivity, or courtesy, from the right. No, I am not.