The late comedian Rodney Dangerfield managed to go a long way in comedy with his famous complaint, “I don’t get no respect.” The line was funny and Dangerfield milked it for what it was worth. It is not funny, however, when it has to do with President Obama.
Apparently, because he is Black, he has not been treated with the respect normally due to the President of the United States. Thus we have to watch the ditzy Governor of Arizona waving her finger at him, and a member of Congress yelling out in the middle of his speech, “You lie!” He has also been subjected to many absolutely unprecedented attacks on a President, such as being a Muslim, having not been born in the U.S., being everything from a socialist to a communist to a fascist and at the very least an “Other.” Some want to denigrate his accomplishments at Harvard as due merely to affirmative action, accusations that can no other foundation than racism. He has also been subjected to truly vicious cartoons, depicting him as a witch doctor with a bone through his nose, dressed as Muslim, and even worse. A Montana judge has circulated an email suggesting his mother mated with a dog, and no matter what he has done Republicans refuse to give him any credit whatsoever. Many people have come right out and admitted they will not vote for him because he is Black, and there is no doubt there are many more who feel that way but will not admit it publicly. He is often pictured as weak on national defense and indecisive, the implication being that he is not really up to the job (he’s Black, you know), in spite of the fact he has been none of those things. And, finally, Republicans, following Mitch McDonnell, have vowed from the very beginning to make him a one term President. They said this even before he had been given much of a chance to do anything as President so it could not be because of his poor performance in office. The fact is, not everyone in the U.S. was or is prepared for a Black President, racism is playing an important part in the refusal of Republicans to give him any credit whatsoever and their obsessive desire to remove him from office even if it damages the country.
The most important aspect of all the above is it not only has to do with President Obama himself, but also disrespects and cheapens the Office of the President. This is virtually unprecedented in our history. Many Presidents have been hated by some, and many have been involved in questionable ventures, but the Office itself has never been so disrespected. Do you believe the Governor of a State like Arizona would have ever wagged their finger in the face of FDR, Ronald Reagan, or Richard Nixon? Or would have publicly accused a President of lying? Would any foreign dignitary like Netanyahu, for example, presume to tell the President of the United States what to do? Do you believe that someone like Sarah Palin would ever have dared to suggest she could debate the President of the United States? This kind of behavior is not only appallingly disrespectful of President Obama, but is also disrespectful of the Presidency.
It is, of course, not only because President Obama is our first Black President. The office of the President has been increasingly demeaned since the Clinton Presidency, when the Republican Party, desperate to unseat him and unable to do so legally, began to resemble more a criminal conspiracy than an ordinary political party, and began using tactics more commonly found among those unconcerned with precedent, law, or even common decency. Prior to Clinton, for example, no President would ever have had his private life so invaded, especially his sex life. John Kennedy was a notorious womanizer but it never became a subject for impeachment. Never before did we see anything like the Starr report, a document usually reserved for scandal sheets or Larry Flynt. What happened to Clinton was the beginning of a process of denigrating the Presidency that has continued to the present day. Of course Clinton helped the process along when he elected to answer the question of whether he wore jocky shorts or boxers, a question so inappropriate as to indicate no appreciation of the importance of the office.
The slow degeneration of the Presidency, in my opinion, was further encouraged by the election of George W. Bush, basically an insult to the electorate. Everyone knew Dubya had been an abject failure at everything he had attempted, was basically a figurehead Governor of Texas, had a questionable military background, as well as a questionable life as a heavy drinker and a lousy student. And yet he became promoted to the Presidency because of his name, family, and a partisan Supreme Court. I personally believe he was probably marginally retarded and his two terms as President did little to dispel my concern. John McCain demonstrated his contempt for the Presidency when he picked the totally unqualified and abysmally ignorant Sarah Palin as his running mate. The idea she could be a heartbeat away from becoming President was an act so irresponsible and unbelievable was so frightening it will surely never be repeated.
Further proof that the Presidency has been demeaned can be seen in the current election cycle. That anyone could believe the various Republican candidates that were front runners from time to time were qualified for that high office indicates clearly the office has now become considered basically unimportant. Palin, Backmann, Trump, Perry, Cain, and even the surviving four, with the possible exception of Romney, cannot be considered truly fit for the Presidency (and even he is questionable). It’s like Gingrich himself said, “We don’t need a smart President now” (or words to that effect). Similarly when people believe an adequate credential for being President is because “He’s someone you can have a beer with,” you know the office is being trivialized. Now when Sarah Palin suggests she would be open to be the nominee if there is a brokered convention, and the MSM even bothers to report this, you know she is not the only delusional one in the country. Similarly, I find the idea that Rick Santorum could be considered Presidential quality virtually unbelievable. Of course there are some that no doubt believe that the Presidency is now occupied by a Black man also demeans it, but the effect is the same. The dignity, importance, and the value of the Presidential Office has been seriously compromised. I don’t know if it can be restored.
It is inaccurate to say that I hate everything. I am strongly in favor of common sense, common honesty, and common decency. This makes me forever ineligible for public office.
H. L. Mencken