In a Mirror, Darkly

I’ve been ranting a good deal lately about the bile being spewed at Obama, and it has inspired me to pause for a moment and reflect on whether or not this is merely a reflection of the commentary many of us threw at Bush during his tenure. My long time readers will recall that I certainly took my liberties with castigating the Bush administration. Is Obama-bashing the same?

At first blush, my inclination is to say no, it is different. The difference is how personal the attacks are. A friend of a friend posted about Obama in a Facebook thread recently, “I have never disliked a President like I do him.” And this dislike translated to her being unable to stomach pretty much anything the man had to say. For her, the message was now immaterial as long as the messenger was Obama. This attitude seems to be pretty consistent with the opinions of those shouting “socialist” and “fascist” at every opportunity.

In fairness, I lobbed my share of personal attacks at Bush. I ridiculed his intellect and his incurious nature, and that was arguably disrespectful. The difference being that I didn’t dislike him personally, I just thought that he had no business running the country. I thought he wasn’t capable of managing the people around him, and was all too often managed by them as a result. However, I did actively dislike Cheney, Rumsfeld, Ashcroft, and others in the cabal that I still suspect were the puppet-masters behind Bush. I was concerned they were out to ruin this country, and perhaps that was the same sort of fear that Obama-bashers have today, fearing that he is out to ruin the country as well.

It seems hard to argue that being depicted with a Hitler mustache is all that much worse than being depicted as Darth Vader. Therefore, it would seem hypocritical to claim the anti-Obama rhetoric itself is wrong or disrespectful.

All this brings us back to whether or not the rhetoric is justified. Here I claim is the crucial difference. The anti-Bush rhetoric was inspired by policies which removed personal freedoms, launched an unjustified war, advocated torture, and other arguably immoral activities. This is what inspired my “fear” of the Bush administration.

I also disagreed with Bush’s “No Child Left Behind” program (although I thought his heart was in the right place). I disagreed with the rebirth of Reaganomics manifested as ballooning deficits and lower taxes on the rich. I thought privatizing Social Security was a disaster waiting to happen. And I thought alienating our allies was imprudent. But those disagreements were policy issues. Part of the natural ebb and flow of politics. We can argue. We can disagree. Yet these issues didn’t inspire fear, loathing, or personal attacks by me, or I would argue, most others bashing Bush.

I would contend that to date, Obama’s actions all fall in the second bucket. He has proposed or implemented economic and social policies that you may like or dislike. But I fail to see that any of them can be positioned as immoral. If Obama is guilty of any immorality, it is that he has failed to reverse all the Bush programs including wiretapping, Guantanamo, rendition, and the like. Yet these are not the issues the conservatives are atwitter about.

An old mentor of mine used to say, “Save your silver bullets for the really angry werewolves.” While I find that I can’t claim people are wrong to fire silver bullets, having puled the trigger on a few myself. I do question whether or not they have a good handle on what constitutes an angry werewolf.

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