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The Tentacle


October 30, 2009

Attack Politics

Roy Meachum

You may have missed the latest survey: a majority of Americans said they no longer have confidence in where their country is headed. As usual sixty-five percent disapprove of the performance by Congress. At the same time, the president’s personal rating held steady at 56 per cent – in the Wall Street Journal/NBC paid-for measurement of the national mood.

 

Yet to hear conservatives – like Rush Limbaugh – you might think Barack Obama is a congenital idiot intent on creating another Soviet Union out of the United States. They blame everything, especially the deficit, on the first black president in history; they totally ignore the state of the union left behind by the very recent Republican administration. They blame everything, especially the deficit, on the first African-American president in history.

 

I mean to infer nothing. Let me speak plainly: the animus behind today’s attack politics derives from racism.

 

Having grown up during the time that people of color were considered universally inferior, especially in my native South, I recognize the stench of prejudice when I smell it. The matter of Mr. Obama’s party registration doesn’t help. For the enthroned Republicans consigned to the bleachers, it hurts especially that the victor is both Democratic and from a minority that has withheld support for the G.O.P.

 

Former Vice President Richard Cheney brays to the media when the present occupant of the Oval Office differs from the policies of his predecessor; many of which the “ex-veep” authored. Totally lost on him was the voters heavy rejection of what he stood for, more so than his boss, George W. Bush. Mr. Obama took office when America’s image and its wallet were shredded; that’s the real reason the committee awarded him the Nobel Peace Prize. It was a rebuff of the U.S. record and attitude during the previous eight years.

 

I’ve heard it said that Europeans were not important; they should buy-in to the recognition that this country was the logical leader of the Free World, based on the premise they measured their money by the U.S. dollar. When Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney placed hands on the Bible, the greenback was strong against most foreign currencies; they left office when China threatened to replace America’s monetary system with its own. There can be no legitimate question about the national deficit created by the Middle Eastern wars and the absence of governmental financial checks: in this instance government translates into families and individuals.

 

From my viewpoint, the loss of valid reasons for attack converted the political din into ear-shattering noise, as right-wing conservatives invented premises they could question. Early on in Obama’s term, former Vice Presidential Candidate Sarah Palin conjured the notion that death panels would be part of any national health insurance plan. What she meant was conferences between families and doctors to discuss next steps in medically caring for patient. Not surprisingly, “death panels” hung on until replaced by a charge that resonated with the public.

 

Barack Obama has been criticized for not telling Congress how to write national health-care legislation; his way amounts to democracy as opposed to Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney’s insistence on imposing details on important (to them) bills. The argument comes from people most concerned about government – control of their lives. Go figure.

 

Most opponents of Mr. Obama’s style see next Tuesday’s Virginia gubernatorial race as test for the man and his Democratic Party; they refuse to take into consideration the two candidates and their campaigning. They want to invent a national message when it’s strictly a state race.

 

Going back to the new TWSJ-NBC poll, pummeling the president in personal attacks must not work with the electorate; still, attack politics will not be abandoned.

 

What a pity for the democracy that has lasted longer than any other form of government that relies on public participation, including republican Rome and the city-states in Greece, where the approach to governing was invented.

 

 



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