Monday, January 3, 2011

Obama derangement syndrome

The Bushes with the Obamas in 2008.

Back in the days of George W. Bush’s presidency, Charles Krauthammer discovered a new mental illness:  Bush Derangement Syndrome.  Krauthammer defined the disease as “the acute onset of paranoia in otherwise normal people in reaction to the policies, the presidency -- nay -- the very existence of George W. Bush.”  It was characterized by the willingness to believe any outlandish theory or conspiracy about President Bush and the act of picking apart the president’s every utterance and action to find something to criticize or disagree with.  If President Bush had said the sky was up, his critics would have found reason to believe otherwise.

In the conservative state of Georgia, BDS was not as prevalent as it was in blue states such as California and New York.  Nevertheless, in the waning days of the Bush Administration, BDS sufferers even plagued the state that had voted for Dubya in both presidential elections.  As my parents, who run a small secondhand shop in Dewy Rose, Georgia told me, people discussing politics prior to the 2008 elections (and in the wake of record gas prices and the early days of the Great Recession) of  frequently held to the theory that “it can’t get any worse.”  Two years later, we have proved that it can always get worse.

Now, after almost two years of unemployment hovering just below ten percent (and higher in Georgia) and an unresponsive and hyper-partisan government, public opinion has come full circle.  At some point over the past several months, Obama Derangement Syndrome has become epidemic. 

Like Bush Derangement Syndrome before it, Obama Derangement Syndrome is characterized by a complete and utter inability to find (or even seek) common ground with the president, no matter how sensible his position might be.  Victims of OBS go beyond disagreement on mere matters of policy and move toward an intensely personal and visceral (and very unappealing) dislike for the man in the Oval Office.

The many conspiracy theories surrounding President Obama are a symptom of OBS.  One of the first was the idea that he was a closet Muslim.  Next came conspiracies that Obama’s health care reform law incorporated a requirement for rationing health care based on a person’s body mass index, that it requires Americans to have microchips implanted, and that it established a secret police force akin to the Gestapo.  These conspiracies are easily debunked with minimal research (and actually reading the law), so their persistence is only accounted for by willful ignorance.

This type of willful ignorance was also exhibited by sufferers of Bush Derangement Syndrome.  Bush battled charges of complicity in the 9/11 attacks, faking intelligence about Iraq’s WMD programs, and even purposely allowing black Americans to suffer and die in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.  BDS in the media reached a zenith when CBS and Dan Rather rushed to air a story critical of President Bush’s Air National Guard service.  Unfortunately, the story was based on forged documents and ultimately cost Rather his job.  Military records ultimately showed that Bush fulfilled his obligation to the Air Force.  The facts show that the other Bush-era conspiracies are baseless as well.  Popular Mechanics published an in-depth investigation debunking 9/11 conspiracies.  Investigations into pre-war intelligence by the US Senate as well as by the British government failed to find any intent to mislead.

Finally, conservatives have criticized President Obama even when he continues Bush-era policies.  GOP chairman Michael Steele was among conservative critics of President Obama’s decision to delay his promised retreat from Afghanistan.  Continuing President Bush’s policy of actually trying to win the war should please conservatives, as well as anyone who thinks that Muslim radicals are a danger to the US.  Calling it “Obama’s war” misses the point that Afghanistan is America’s war against terrorists who are trying very hard to kill large numbers of us and topple our society.

More recently, many conservatives were critical of President Obama’s compromise with Republicans to extend the low Bush-era tax rates.  Dick Morris called the compromise a surrender by Obama akin to Appomattox, yet many conservatives, instead of saluting Obama for doing the right thing for the country found fault with the deal because the surrender was not total enough.  In view of the liberal ire raised for the temporary extension of the tax rates (which will be an issue in 2012) and the fact that Democrats still controlled both houses of Congress, a deal more generous to Republicans was unlikely to have passed.

Make no mistake (as the president might say), Obama Derangement Syndrome is on the rise.  Even as his approval ratings continue to fall, conservatives should judge his actions and policies based on their merits rather than a knee-jerk reaction to find fault with anything he does.  Such obviously partisan positions did not help the Democrats defeat Bush who won more total votes, a larger percentage of the popular vote, and more electoral votes in 2004 after suffering years of partisan attacks than he did in the election of 2000.  If conservatives want to defeat President Obama and his wrong-headed policies, then their opposition should be thoughtful and objective, not simply a matter of criticizing anything and everything.  When he does the right thing, he should be supported.

BONUS:  I can also support President Obama in his attempt at humor in a May 2010 speech at the White House Correspondent’s Association Dinner.  Presidents have a history of getting themselves into trouble when they try to tell jokes at this function.  Presidents Bush and Obama were no exceptions.  President Obama, speaking to the Jonas Brothers, said, "Sasha and Malia are huge fans, but boys, don't get any ideas. Two words for you: predator drones. You will never see it coming." 

Obama was immediately criticized by liberal anti-war bloggers for joking about Predators.  Conservative bloggers mostly pointed out the inconsistency of the mainstream media’s focus on Bush’s joke while giving Obama a pass.  Totally missed by everyone was the fact that Obama’s joke was a funny one.  Any father of a daughter can identify with wanting to protect her from teenage boys.  I am totally sympathetic and my daughter is only two-years-old. 

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