Sometimes, I like to jump into shark-infested waters and play around with sharks. Such has been the case with this blog post that I threw some chum into. Note the fundamental disconnect between my comment and the responses that I got. My comment was scrupulously non-partisan, but immediately drew a hailstorm of “Obamabot!” reactions. Here is a brief recap of the rhetoric regarding Obama and his actions:

“slimy Marxist” — ” attempting everything to destroy this nation and its Constitution” — “idiot” — “usurper” — “unrelenting marxist shit heel like the PUS” — “slanderer in chief” — “his anti-American party” — “the socialist wing of the SCOTUS plus” — “the current joke AG Eric Holder” — “his racialist, pro-invasion anti-American bilge” — “his purple shirted thugs in SEIU” — “the ruling junta” — “a COMMUNIST with every intention of destroying this nations free market economy” — “replace the traitors” — “that illegal alien shitpuddle in DC” — “The only ones perpetrating a coup is the regime versus the American people” — “despot” — “like Chavez in Venezuela” — “curtail God given rights” — “obvious domestic enemies as they consistently trash this country, our military, and our constitution” — “if there were a civil revolution against this administration – I’m also sure they would not fire upon the citizens” — “the enemy of social stability” — “ignores the rule of law” — “agent of social disintegration” — “tin pot tyrant” — “a paranoid, narcissistic sociopath” — “he has to use subterfuge and political thuggery” — “tearing down the current society” — “socialist shitholes” — “stated aim is to destroy [the Constitution]” — “an outspoken enemy of this nation” — “overtly racialist invective” — “contempt for the citizens of Arizona” — “MFCSPOSCiC”; I can only infer from the first two letters that this no compliment — “handsome young mulatto” — “Odumbo” — “The bowing and scraping of this puke to our enemies” — “Odipshit”.

I have worked hard to cling to my principles of objectivity, civil discourse, and recognition that no one paradigm of governance fits all our nation’s needs all the time. Besides being wildly inventive, The Center Square is my well chosen moniker. I would gladly rebuke left-wing rhetoric that falls to such a level of invective as all this, but to tell the truth, it isn’t to be found. Yeah, there are some shouts of “Racist!” flung in Rand Paul’s direction and the like. There were some calls that Bush was a traitor for his abuse of military power in the day, and I did speak against those excesses. But only Obama has been subjected to this extreme degree of virulent, racist, paranoid rhetoric.

This feels like a contagion that has spread from the most far-flung radical fringe, to the next ring, or the next couple of rings of society. There does come a point where this sort of attitude destabilizes our constitutional government. I hate thinking this, much less bringing it up, but four of our own presidents have been assassinated, one of those in my lifetime. Reagan was nearly killed. This profession has a higher fatality rate than coal miners, offshore oil rig workers, or soldiers in modern combat. Elsewhere, Indira Ghandi was killed in 1984 — by her own bodyguards, no less — and at least 15 nations worldwide now live under repressive regimes brought in through coups d’etat. History says the worst is possible.

I don’t where the tipping point is. I can’t tell if we are standing safely back from the edge of the precipice, able to enjoy the luxury of listening bemusedly to the rantings of a few fringe fanatics. Or if we are dangling over the edge already, scrambing for a foothold and way back to safe ground. I know it takes only one Booth or Czolgosz, only one Oswald or Hinckley, to buy into this screed and decide to take matters into his own hands.

And you know what? Even dismissing the worst case scenario, I will say this. If this is the new face of the right side of American politics, then all hope for a moderate, centrist governed future is lost for the time being. You can’t talk to people like this. There is no room for information, history, fact, analysis or reason. If these represent the political opposition, of course liberals should utterly disregard them and enact their own agenda without regard for compromise or restraint. That, my very few readers know, is a path I deem very unwise. We need to blend a liberal willingness to use the levers of government to meet our national challenges with a conservative focus on fiscal restraint to be successful in the long run.

But how? How do you work with people such as these???

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The right-wing-osphere has been abuzz with indignation about a couple of recent Obama moments. First, there was the now infamous “arrogance” comment from his recent speech in France. And a couple of days later came the even more infamous “bow” to Saudi King Abdullah.

I think those who would seriously condemn our President for either or both of these need to do the following to be credible.

(1) Defend the interpretation that Obama was characterizing America in general as arrogant, dismissive, and derisive; versus that he was characterizing only the foreign policy of the previous administration as such. The latter is my interpretation; it makes more contextual sense to me. And as such, that comment was not only accurate, but constructive. His view is that we are better off with our allies grabbing an oar and rowing alongside us. Such fair-minded commentary signals an end to the go-f-yourself mentality of the previous administration, and helps bring such collaboration closer to reality. This was Obama’s campaign message; this is his reality. Some people may disagree, but that does not mean his approach is not sensible.

(2) Interpret Obama’s full quote. What do you make of the rest of his comments, addressing anti-American sentiment head on? There seems to be little attention given to that.

(3) Walk us through the implications of the bowing episode. Personally, I think he made an inadvertent mistake. He is inexperienced and not used to being on the world stage like that. The question is, what are the implications? Is there a case to be made that American sovereignty was lessened? That the Saudis will have enhanced confidence to defy us? Make that case. Otherwise, it is a trivial gaffe on a par with other presidential gaffes. Some of my personal favorites:

  • Ford: “There is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe, and there never will be under a Ford administration.”
  • Reagan, not knowing a microphone was live: “My fellow Americans, I am pleased to tell you I just signed legislation which outlaws Russia forever. The bombing begins in five minutes.” Incidentally, this triggered a full scale military alert in the Soviet Union — infinitely more significant than Obama’s Saudi gaffe.
  • Bush 41, while visiting Auschwitz as vice president: “Boy, they were big on crematoriums, weren’t they?”
  • Clinton, not particularly gaffe-prone, but this statement lives forever and was a basis for his impeachment: “It depends upon what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is.”
  • Bush 43: At a G8 summit, Bush squeezed Germany’s chancellor Angela Merkel’s shoulders, causing a surprised Merkel to cringe.

The bottom line for me is this. The “arrogance” comment was a constructive furtherance of the new foreign policy direction he was elected to pursue; and the Saudi bow was an unimportant gaffe. I have not heard or read anyone criticize these events who didn’t already dislike Obama’s policies. That tells me a lot.