The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart is a penetrating observer of today’s politics, and the other night–while delivering a very funny review of Clint Eastwood’s “dialogue” with an empty chair at the Republican convention–he delivered one of those “Aha” moments.
Stewart noted that he’d had trouble getting his head around many of the accusations Republicans leveled at Obama, but that now he understood: there are TWO Barack Obamas, one of whom only Republicans can see! It’s the invisible guy they keep talking about!
There’s more than a little truth to that, and it is unfortunate for a lot of reasons.
I’m not the only person who has been mystified by charges that a moderate Democrat implementing a healthcare program devised by Republicans is somehow a “socialist,” or that a President who has presided over the slowest growth in government spending since Eisenhower is engaged in ruinous and unrestrained spending. I’ve been stunned by accusations that a man who entered the national consciousness with an “only in America” speech at the 2004 Democratic convention is routinely accused of “hating America.”
Stewart is right, of course, as he usually is: the Barack Obama who is the target of these accusations isn’t the Obama who actually occupies the White House. It’s the Barack Obama of fevered–and let us be honest here, essentially racist–imaginations.
There are two major problems with the nature of these attacks. The obvious one is that the Romney campaign’s willingness to “go there,” to engage in dog whistles and worse, exacerbates an ugly divide that America has tried hard to erase. It is analogous to picking at the scab on a still-unhealed wound. If the strategy wins–if, in the wake of the election, Romney is perceived to have benefitted from it–racial tensions will make it even harder to rebuild a politics of reason.
The other problem with the Republicans’ fixation on an imaginary Obama is that it has foreclosed debate on the actual policies of the actual Obama. This President–like all of his predecessors–has implemented, or failed to implement, a wide variety of policies that deserve to be critically examined. Like most citizens, I agree with some and disagree with others. Elections are intended to provide citizens with discussions of the strengths and weaknesses of policy positions held by the candidates, as well as giving voters a sense of the character of those who are asking for our votes.
That discussion–that reasoned critique of this Administration’s performance and priorities–has been virtually absent from this campaign. It has been drowned out by hyperbole and outright fabrication.
The campaign against the real Barack Obama has been obscured by the one directed at the invented version sitting in the empty chair.
8 thoughts on “The Guy in the Chair”
Has anyone considered the possibility that Clint Eastwood wasn’t aware that chair was empty? He appeared not to be aware enough of being on national TV to comb his hair. We will never know where Eastwood’s mind was on that night anymore than we will know where the GOP and the Tea Party get THEIR information about President Obama. My fear is that these fools, including Eastwood, will buy the presidency and this country will lose the most forward-thinking president we have had in many years.
All I can say is that before we elect an empty chair as President we make sure we have a legitimate manufacturing certificate…..no photocopies……and that the factory be in the continental United States or Alaska, because there is just a certain amount of suspect “otherness” about Hawaii. Same goes for Clint Eastwood.
I’ll never forget when one of my conservative friends in 08 feared that electing Obama would have him (Obama) knocking on his door to take his guns away. He is a retired Master Sargent of the Air Force, living in the south who is a hunter and skeet shooter. He voted for McCain and Palin because she was hot and he was a vet.
I thought about him this past week and have kept myself from writing an email to him asking if Obama ever showed up? We got into an argument once about the Healthcare law because he had his veterans healthcare and didn’t believe in the new law. I asked him how could he possibly think that way? Why is it okay for him to get the best healthcare in the country but the rest of us are on our own? How unpatriotic of him!
And I’m tempted to write to President Obama to thank him for reviving Kokomo. During the dark days of the recession, I drove through Kokomo on my way to South Bend (family there) and saw a ghost town that is now bumper to bumper traffic. We had to stop 14 times at those awful stop lights on US 31 on the way home last week. But remembering the difference from 2009 was a nice thing to see. It was worth the wait at all of those lights. If anybody asks me if we’re better off than we were 4 yrs ago, I’ll tell them to go to Kokomo and ask those people.
Not everyoneor who is not voting for President Obama is not a racist. I will add that I realize this is not what you said. I remeber when then Senator Obama made his speech at the Democratic Convention in I’m thinking ’04, but may have been ’00, I told my wife that he would be a presidential candidate one day, and probably win. As I watched him as a senator he really did nothing. Never truly committing to any one idea. ALways straight party line, and often abstaining from any vote at all. To me this is not what an elected official does. Unfortunately many of our “leaders” do the same thing. So as I watched his voting record in the senate, I knew this what not the type of leader I could vote for president. So I didn’t, and I won’t this time either. He did have a tough go, but he just doesn’t seem to have “it”.
My favorite part of the speech was when Clint said that there were lots of conservative people in Hollywood and many were in Tampa. He said he had just seen Jon Voight… then changed subject.
It must be noted here that the disastrous Eastwood event has been removed from videos for the Romney campaign. Ya THINK? We all understand that he was there to represent gun-owners and the NRA. It was a costly mistake.
This much-loved movie veteran should have been saved from himself before the embarrassing event. Glen Campbell’s family and press folks did Glen the favor of canceling future appearances. Perhaps Eastwood’s ‘people’ will do the same.
President Obama is STILL bi-racial and STILL the President. The r’s just can’t get past it.
When you start ascribing racism to even the most benign criticisms of anybody who’s black, all you’re doing is allowing people who are racist to operate freely under the “cry wolf” thing.
For someone who has reversed course on so many major policy issues, from FISA to Gitmo to Medicare to Civil Rights to transparency to the debt ceiling to the Bush Tax Cuts to public campaign funding, etc. there are two Presidents right now. I don’t know that it’s the same two you’re thinking of, however. This is echoed by the constant use of “at least I’m not the other guy” political tactics.
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