A Facebook friend recently shared this opinion piece by Canadian William Thomas, wherein Mr. Thomas frets over the unjust treatment America’s sitting President has received from some of his fellow citizens:
Mr. Thomas’s thoughts can be distilled to this paragraph:
[President Obama] is being challenged unfairly, characterized with vulgarity and treated with the kind of deep disrespect to which no previous president was subjected. It’s like the day after electing the first black man to be president, thereby electrifying the world with hope and joy, Americans sobered up and decided the bad old days were better.
It probably doesn’t come as a surprise to anyone that the above remarks are preceded by this kindly little dig at George W. Bush:
Unlike [President Obama’s] predecessor, he’s a very intelligent leader.
Uh-huh. Is it assuming too much to believe that Mr. Thomas was also scandalized by the “Bush is a retarded chimp” meme that was all the rage before 2008?
Sitting Presidents have almost always been demonized by political opposition, going back nearly to the days of our nation’s founding. For example, when Jefferson and Adams were campaigning against one another, Jefferson’s camp referred to Adams as a “hideous hermaphroditical character, which has neither the force and firmness of a man, nor the gentleness and sensibility of a woman.” Adams supporters fired back by asserting that Jefferson was “a mean-spirited, low-lived fellow, the son of a half-breed Indian squaw, sired by a Virginia mulatto father.”
Despicable, of course, as such rhetoric always is. But it at least serves to demonstrate that it’s nothing new.
I won’t dispute that some of the rhetoric that has been leveled at President Obama is indeed vulgar and disrespectful. For my own part, I couldn’t disagree more stridently with the man; I may make a sarcastic remark here and there, but I try not to resort to demonization and puerile name-calling. Be that as it may, Mr. Thomas’s notion that “no previous president was subjected” to a similar level of vitriol is naive and rather badly belied by history — some of it very recent. One need only go back less than a decade to find appalling examples of it:
If you want to decry the coarseness and rank dishonor in American political discourse, Mr. Thomas, fine. I’ll join you — as long as you are also willing to call people on it when the “deep disrespect” is aimed at a President you oppose. Given your sneering appraisal of former President Bush’s intellect, however, I somehow doubt that we’ll be linking arms anytime soon.