Our Fictional President

Saturday, I opened my IBJ to read a truly paranoid rant from Greg Morris, the publisher, who has a weekly opinion column. Mr. Morris is clearly one of those Second Amendment folks who views his right to bear arms with religious fervor, and his embrace of “one nation, armed to the teeth” was unsettling enough. But what really set the warning bells off was his full-throated embrace of one of the many conspiracy theories that have persisted since the election of Barack Obama: “they’re coming for our guns!”

Mr. Morris was unable to point to a single fact supporting this fantasy. It was the usual “everyone knows” and “someone said” rant–the Obama administration is “just waiting for the second term” and then they’ll confiscate your weapons!

I was shocked to see this garbage in the staid IBJ, a publication focused on the business community, and one of the few media outlets that still fact-checks and reports.But it reminded me of an observation someone made about the Republican primary–that the GOP candidates are running against a fictional President.

The criticisms of Obama from the left–and there have been plenty of them–tend to fault him for specific policy decisions. He has failed to dismantle Bush’s security apparatus; his administration defended the killing of an American citizen working with the terrorists, without a trial or other due process. Agree or not with those criticisms (and I do), they are specific and tangible.

The criticisms from the Right, however, rarely focus on something the President actually did. Other than the hated “Obamacare” (which very few people who want it repealed seem to understand) and pious hand-wringing over the national debt (inconveniently created by George W. Bush), most of the accusations seem to be the products of fevered imaginations: Obama is a “socialist” who wants to make the U.S. into Europe; Obama hates white people; Obama is a Kenyan Muslim fascist; Obama wants to confiscate our guns….

I read “The Audacity of Hope” during the 2008 campaign. I agreed with almost everything in it–because the positions outlined were very much the same positions I held (and continue to hold) when I ran for Congress in 1980 as a moderate Republican.┬áIf there is one mistake today’s Left and Right hold in common, its the belief that Obama ran as some sort of raging liberal. He didn’t, he wasn’t, and he isn’t.

The absolute hysteria on the Right can’t be explained by Obama’s actual policies. Unlike the situation with George W. Bush, who didn’t arouse intense animosity until he’d actually done things, the irrational hatred of Obama began the day he was elected.

We seem to have two Presidents, the actual man we elected, and a fictional “boogeyman.” And while race doesn’t explain all of that, it explains a hell of a lot.


  1. Remember, in politics, perception is often reality. If the GOP can sell a scary Obama, no matter how at odds with the facts, they can try to beat him with fear. And it can work. They have been pounding on the Muslim Kenyan socialist theme for 4 years, and with some folks alas, it works.

  2. The party that still denies climate change, promotes creationism as science, claims that greater availability of contraception will lead to more out of wedlock births, is spouting an irrational position on gun control. You have to be kidding.

  3. Your criticisms about the generalized criticisms & support for Obama are spot-on. I neither get how the right who supported Bush can be so anti-Obama, nor do I get how the left who was so anti-Bush can be so pro-Obama. Their policies (not styles) in so many key areas are so incredibly similar.

    But as for no animosity for Bush the day he was inaugurated? Perhaps your memory for Diebold and ‘stolen election’ has faded? There was plenty of irrational hysteria and hatred right from Day One. If anything, Bush gained a pass at 9/11, not before.

    The Boogeyman president has been true in my observation since 1980. I’m not old enough to remember prior to this. I recall a relative having an ‘Impeach Clinton’ bumper sticker on his car *prior* to his inauguration. I remember animosity at the ’empty suit actor’ as some of my first moments of political awareness from fans of Carter, who was just defeated at the polls. At any rate, it seems that the bases of the Ds & Rs both exhibit long term irrational hysteria for presidents of the other party, and irrational support, based much more on team colors and logos rather than actual policy. The criticisms from the left that you cite are refreshing signs of integrity. They are exceptionally few and muted, unfortunately.

  4. With today’s repubs, we see 2 things at work. 1. An inability to tackle real-world issues so they go after the Evangelical mouth-breather vote; pandering to mindless idiots who believe the world was created in 6 days, that women are to be kept subservient, barefoot and pregnant, gays are going to hell, and forget about women’s reproductive rights. 2. This is a subtle form of racism. Repubs don’t dare actually admit this because it would get them booted en-masse from office. But it makes sense.

  5. Lies told often enough become truths to those who believe “where there is smoke, there is fire” and are too lazy to go on line and research any and all information. I, too, became and remain an Obama supporter after reading, “The Audacity of Hope”. President Obama maintains that hope, even if a little shakey, as do I. The birthers and those who continue to believe President Obama is a Muslim are basically staunch Republicans; staunch is defined as being steadfast and unmoving. They are certainly that and have no realization of the damage they are doing to this country. I have a solution to the seeminly unsolvable problem of lack of gun control; each of us who do not have a gun would be given a gun and one bullet for protection, this could be called the Barney Fife Law. This is no more foolish than the “stand your ground law” that took the life of a 17 year old in Florida who was armed with a can of iced tea and a bag of skittles. We thinking adults must stand strong in our support of this incredible president; we must spread the truth each time we are faced with the lies and fictions as they appear. My 18 year old granddaughter, who will be voting for the first time, told me she will vote for President Obama because he NEEDS this second term to finish the job he started.

  6. Greg Morris and others of his ilk are lightly tethered to reality. That whole “God, guns, and gays” thing dies hard. The nation is wrestling with the death of a young black man, Trayvon Martin, in Florida. He wore a hoodie. He dared to walk too near a Hispanic named Zimmerman, who was armed and fancied himself an almost-cop. He isn’t. The young man was armed with Skittles and a can of tea. Zimmerman’s gun trumped his Skittles and the young man died. Zimmerman is not even in jail at this hour, as far as I know. How very sad.

    I am glad that Ms Green’s 18-year-old granddaughter and her peers can see through all this insanity and will go to the polls for the first time. Yes, President Obama NEEDS a second term to finish the job he started.

  7. A friend just directed me to to this blog post after I posted on Facebook basically the same thing, that he came off as a conspiracy nut job not befitting a publication I respect. I seriously hope that the power that be at the IBJ reconsider his position. Even as a writer, every column of his plods along and is a chore to get through. I used to fault him just for his mediocre writing skills but now there’s so much more to dislike.

  8. While I’m typically not the type to begrudge people their political bigotry, I have to call foul here. Mr. Kole’s observations about the remarkable similarities between Obama and Bush are spot-on. The 800 lb gorilla in the room that nobody wants to discuss is how alike many of their policy decisions have become.

    As always happens in politics, Obama did run as a far left liberal in the primary, and while his voting record was thing at best, it’s partisan leaning spoke for itself. My father denies this just as most people here seem to, and he also buys into the idea that all the Republicans running are from some far right conspiracy group (except for Romney, dad hasn’t succeeded in nailing that jello to the wall yet.) My response is usually, “well dad, you’re a liberal Democrat, of course you think they’re all wingnuts.”

    It’s been difficult to follow because of this sordid media love affair. However, the tenor of Obama’s comments changed drastically when he began receiving national security briefings. I don’t want to instigate by saying that he came into the election cycle a bit on the naive side, but I will say his administration has been able to get away with a fair amount without being criticized by anyone from the media.

    On the Martin/Zimmerman thing, as more facts come to light, it’s looking increasingly like there’s a little bit less of a scandal. Nonetheless, we shall see…

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