Off the Rails

Excuse this rant, but I’ve had it.

According to my husband, his father hated FDR. But when some of the people watching newsreels in a theater booed the President, he was appalled, because “back in the day,” whatever your opinion of the person, Americans believed in showing respect for the office.

People serving in Congress in times past were undoubtedly just as political, just as self-dealing, as those who are there now, but for most of American history, it was understood that disagreements with the Commander-in-Chief stopped at the water’s edge.

What we are seeing during the Obama Presidency isn’t “loyal opposition.” We are seeing shameful, childish and above all, profoundly unAmerican behavior.

Various commenters have suggested that the disrespect and hostility shown to this president are little different than the partisan attacks on Clinton and Bush. That simply isn’t true: while both of those individuals aroused intense feelings (and often boorish behaviors), the animus pales in comparison to what Obama has faced. Furthermore, much of the opposition those Presidents faced was triggered by their own actions; in Clinton’s case, his inability to keep his pants zipped, and in Bush’s, his decision to engage in a costly war of choice.

Obama has faced implacable hatred from Day One.

Political Animal listed just a few of the ongoing, unprecedented expressions of disdain for this President:

* Shouting “You lie!” in a speech to a Joint Session of Congress,
* Refusing to accept the date for a speech about job creation to a Joint Session of Congress.
* Negotiating a speech to Congress from a foreign head of state behind the President’s back.
* Seeking to undermine U.S. negotiations with a foreign country by writing a letter to their head of state. (This, in my view, was close to treasonous.)
* Refusing to even hold a hearing on the President’s proposed budget.
* Tossing the President’s proposal to shut down Guantanamo Bay Prison in the trash (and videotaping the process).
* Refusing to hold hearings on a Supreme Court nominee before the President has even named one.

Yesterday, a couple of commenters suggested that the refusal to consider Obama’s Supreme Court nominee was no different from previous posturing by Democrats–just “politics as usual.” But verbal posturing by a couple of Senators who subsequently discharged their constitutional duty is significantly different from the united refusal of GOP Senators to uphold the Constitution and do their jobs.

At Political Animal, Nancy LeTourneau posted a sentiment with which I entirely agree:

As Josh Marshall says about the latest example of refusing to hold hearings on the President’s Supreme Court nominee, it is “a culmination of Republican efforts not simply to block Obama’s policies but to delegitimize, degrade and denigrate his presidency and the man himself.” That was essentially my reaction when I first heard of their plans.

Throughout Obama’s presidency, Congressional Republicans have adamantly refused to support programs that would have been uncontroversial during any other administration–including initiatives that they themselves originally developed–simply because this President proposed them.

David Brooks, a conservative columnist for the New York Times, represents the Republican party I once knew–a party that no longer exists. He recently wrote that despite disagreements with the President, he would miss him: 

Obama radiates an ethos of integrity, humanity, good manners and elegance that I’m beginning to miss, and that I suspect we will all miss a bit, regardless of who replaces him.

To that, I would add dignity and grace in the face of constant efforts to diminish and degrade him.

One final point before I conclude this rant: to those who deny that racism motivates much of this despicable treatment of the President, who insist it’s just partisan politics as usual, I suggest you open your eyes and ears. Obama has been demonized as “other” since he took office. Birthers have questioned his citizenship, and anti-Muslim Republicans still insist he’s Muslim.  The current crop of GOP Presidential candidates has channeled the racism and xenophobia, enthusiastically accepting endorsements from white supremacists and unapologetic racists. A recent New York Times Poll found that 20% of Trump supporters believe that Lincoln should never have freed the slaves.

The GOP is off the rails, and its behavior is inexcusable, racist and detrimental to America.


62 thoughts on “Off the Rails

  1. This. 100% this. In the coming years I hope they name (or re-name) something significant in the Capitol after him. Or he, in fact, ends up on the SCOTUS. In other words, some kind of serious thumb in the eye action occurs.

  2. There are many people who are elitists in politics. People who believe they are superior in intellect and social position. It doesn’t take much research to find statements from some of these so-called leaders to know they are bigots, misogynists and homophobic. We have had our share of these elitists in Indiana – Mitch Daniels is the one that jumps out at me. If you ever had a discussion with Daniels (as I did) about an issue he disagreed with (education policy) he would shout you down and berate you while waving a finger in my face, as not being intelligent enough to know anything (as he did to me at a statehouse rally for public ed).

    Many people in politics now do not respect much of anything; the election process, their constituents, the “other party,” and mostly people who do not reflect their views. This is the result of districts that have been gerrymandered to produce many state legislators that have been appointed by the GOP or ran unopposed. The lack of respect these leaders have is taken from the Congress; the complete disregard and disrespect of the President. They see that they get away with it and they just follow suit.

    As Sheila state in a previous blog post: “These people want to rule, they don’t want to govern.

  3. Amen Sheila. It used to be the case that politicians were on their better behavior when in public and their crude comments were reserved for behind closed doors. The boorish, coarse, and even vulgar comments are out of control and are national and international embarrassments to this country and all of us by extension. I would hate to think that other nations feel these ‘off the rails’ trash talkers are representative of most Americans. I’d hate to for our children and grandchildren to think that either.

  4. As I read this blog; a thought kept running through my mind, OMG – these behaviors mirror the spoiled brat, selfish, me first, instant gratification of the younger generations. Sad to say; I saw the beginning of it en masse in my own children’s generation due to the lack of responsible parenting and the rapid decline of simple respect and consideration for others by my generation. It is evident in road rage and the mass shootings by those who believe the fact that they didn’t get their way, were fired from jobs they didn’t do, slights real or imagined by family, friends and people they deal with in the work field gave them the right to attack, often verbally with insults and lies or physically taking innocent lives. The current political situation with the GOP has escalated to unimaginable levels as we watch, listen to and read the demands, threats and promises of political candidates who stoop to gutter level slandering and lies about opponents. As my ex-husband used to say, “they are lower than whale shit!” Adult temper tantrums with our government and the entire country as their playing field; we, the people, sit on the sidelines waiting for their next edict to disallow our participation in their action/inaction regarding our civil and human rights. And the odds are good that one of these fools will take the White House; the world at large is watching and waiting to see what we will do because it will effect their lives as well as ours…up to and with the great possibility of world nuclear war.

    I became aware of this first hand when my children participated in Little League Pee Wee, Baseball and Girl’s Softball organizations. Parents in the stands, none of whom had the time or energy to help coach or manage teams or provide transportation for their own kids; behaved like the current Republican Debate participants.

    “The GOP is off the rails, and its behavior is inexcusable, racist and detrimental to America.”

    This statement puts it simply and directly; and we are seeing the GOP supporters, like those uninvolved parents so long ago, bearing the full responsibility of the outcome of deciding our future leaders with no thought of the ultimate effect on America, Americans and the world. I have wondered if those who are still supporting Ben Carson; an amazing, life-saving brain surgeon, with no political experience or qualifications who wants to be president, have they ever given thought to the fact that he has no comprehension of his limitations in the political world? Turn the situation around; with his political qualifications and years of experience throughout the world; would President Obama give any thought to performing brain surgery? No need to attempt to compare the the other GOP presidential wannabes with rational thought or action in the future; we can’t even control the GOP in Congress today.

  5. I found myself reading up on Canada’s immigration laws the other night. I would like my kids to live in a decent country. As much as I would like to believe we live in a country that is improving, and that this is the last gasp of the old, ugly American, sometimes I wonder if that is really true.

  6. I am continually amazed at the grace and dignity President Obama and the First Lady maintain in the face of so much denigration. I don’t know how they do it.

    I believe the behavior of the do-nothing Republicans is the reason their party is choosing someone like Trump. They are sick and tired of their party representatives and want to old order out. Sadly, the three front runners they have are all terrible choices to be President. God help us all if a Republican gets elected.

    When I call my own state reps about tea party issues that I strongly disagree with, I don’t mince words at all. Dan Coats’ office will hear from me today, even though I know he doesn’t care because he is ‘finally’ retiring.

    The only office that the Republican party (and the billionaires like the Kochs that control them) can’t gerrymander is the Presidency and this angers them immensely. I can’t even imagine the ugliness and hatred that is drilled into Congress members’ heads when they attend the multiple extravagant conferences created by the billionaires that are running this country.

    Our only hope is that the younger generations will put a stop to this ugliness and create a future government that will care about the people and stop pandering to the ultra wealthy that want to rule our country.

  7. Well said Sheila,

    I remember Nixon’s election in 1968 and how the fact that George Wallace and his racism and hate got Nixon elected, and yet no one would comment.

    This President has inspired me with his tolerance and grace in reaction to the slings and arrows of unceasing racism clothed in everything imaginable.

    How lucky his children and the youth of today are to see a true leader.

    Thank you,

  8. I absolutely feel someone needed to stop this President from all the things he has done to bring our country down. It is obvious he had an agenda for doing so. How can you say these things when the GOP Congress gave in to everything this thug wanted. This giving in on Obamacare and spending and all of the other nonsense has caused the anger that has brought about the Trump and Sanders followers. The country is angry due to all the lawlessness and lowering of the standard of living by this man and his AGENDA.

  9. @ Teresa – I share the same sentiment about Daniels as you do. I had a conversation with him before he was first elected as our governor and found him to be extremely arrogant. As a Purdue graduate I stopped caring about my alma mater when he put himself into office as the President.

  10. OK, we all agree that what is happening is a disaster. Fine, but what are we going to do about it? We talk and talk and talk, trying to describe what is happening to the best of our abilities but then many of us shrug our shoulders and do nothing. Many who rail at all of this won’t bother to vote this fall saying that they’re just disgusted with politics and that they don’t care anymore. Can’t we realize that this attitude is a core ingredient in what has spawned all of this junk? Those that have pushed our system to the brink count on us to acquiesce. So far their collective estimates regarding the viability of their opposition are proved right time after time. Their opposition folds up.

    Our “good friend” Ted Cruz, for example, won his seat in the Senate via a runoff election in Texas where only 4% of those that were eligible to vote showed up at the polls on election day. Being the deeply cynical and highly ruthless character that he is he knew what was going to happen in a run-off where the vast majority of people that could have stopped him were going to stay home and he exploited it.

    Here in Indiana, we rant and rave about the ineptitude of our sitting Governor and our even worse state legislature but we have no one to blame except ourselves in regard to that either. People that could have changed that outcome as well opted out and stayed home on election day here as well.

    In both instances those that have convinced us, or at least a lot of us, that government is evil, out of control, just too big to deal with, that it’s the enemy, and that things will never change have won the day.

    My question is how much further off the rails will all of this have to get before we stand up and stop it? Who other than us is going to do that? That “man on the white horse” of days gone that is supposed to come in and rescue us all is no longer available and in actuality he never was anyway.

  11. AG is one of those ugly Americans and probably doesn’t know it. The ultimate disrespect and racism is calling the President a thug.

  12. Thanks Prof K. It is way past time that we call it what it is: Racism. Never has a political party shown such utter contempt for our President. They were plotting to kill his presidency while he was celebrating his election. This is evil people being evil. Nothing “usual” about it from a political standpoint. When LBJ moved the Democrats from being a racist party to the peoples party in the mid 60’s, all the racists moved to the Republican party. It has been the headquarters for racist boobs ever since. And the big money folks just manipulate the racists haters (and church ladies) to vote them in so they can do whatever the billionaire class wants them to do. Time for a BIG change. Up and down the ballot. I sure hope it comes soon.

  13. Here’s the thing: when the GOP, particularly the leadership, denigrate this President, they aren’t just disrespecting the man or the office, they are disrespecting and marginalizing us.

    I remember how appalled I was when GW Bush dismissed criticism with the offhand “they aren’t going to vote for us anyway.”

    Partisanship didn’t end when a newly-elected president took office, but past presidents understood that they served ALL of us, not just their own party.

    I hate to be a conspiracy theorist, but I do not believe that what we are seeing is just boorish behavior; I think we are being set up for a coup, and not necessarily a bloodless one. The delegitimization of the political choices of the majority of Americans, the “War on Women,” the militarization of the police, the divide and conquer strategies using race, religion, gender, class, politics, etc., the “Big Brother” monitoring of communications, do not, to me, signal the rise of oligarchy as an organic result of capitalism (or Tea Party-ism, or any other “ism”). I don’t believe this is random or accidental; I believe it’s deliberate, and the goal is despotism.

  14. *should have said “past presidents and legislative majorities” understood that they represented all of us.

  15. AG, please give examples of the lawless behavior of this president and the things you believe he has done to bring the country down.

    I have never yet heard a concrete FACT from people who make this claim. Perhaps you’ll be the first.

  16. We already had a coup, when the Supreme Court handed George Bush the presidency, and no one who mattered objected, including Al Gore. My belief is that the problem is campaign finance. You can’t run a clean election with unlimited money.

  17. Ginny, they get their talking point from Rush Limbaugh and Fox Spews so just watch that channel for an hour and you’ll have all of the answers to those that have been brainwashed.

    This rant is a great indication that it was written before the debate last night. I just finished watching the rerun of it. We’re in a world of hurt if any of those guys wins in November.

    Laughing stock of the world…

  18. All I can say is “Amen to that!” We have come a long way since 1865. The last 8 years show we still have a long way to go.

  19. Ginny: He has been trashed because he has not added such as these to his administration: Chaney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Duby (GWBush), but rather he has kept the peace through his efforts, his State Department headed by John Kerry, and many others .
    In contrast, if the powerful elect any of the parade of GOP hopefuls you will hear the drumbeat of “Boots-on-the-Ground”. They will all get slots in a GOP administration and we will slide into World War Three as quickly as the GOP war and propaganda machine can mobilize. Congress, ever poor-mouthing will have plenty of money by further lifting of the debt ceiling. Here they go again – they’re already bleating about Iran “breaking the agreement”.

  20. We won’t be able to afford to give any attention to the crumbing infrastructure. All work will go to WW3 and “off contract”. Remember Haliburton??

  21. Personally I believe that while racism undoubtedly plays a role in this among some people, a broader cultish behavior is extremism and it’s not in this case a collective cultural response to environment but a manufactured and distributed product designed to save the Republican Party from the consequences of their dysfunction.

    All of the behaviors that Sheila is lamenting today are standard operating issue for extremists. You know like we have gotten used to seeing on the news from the Middle East.

    There is no better contrast than between the behaviors of Trump and Sanders. If anything Bernie is the more extreme politically but Trump’s whole political offerering is an extreme extremism act. He just wants flexibility so he’s not committed to any particular set of solutions or even issues but can just play the thug to any crowd.

    Warning bells should have gone off when Trump was making his mark off of denigrating “political correctness” a term that embodies respectfulness.

    It’s gone downhill from there and the Obamas have borne the brunt of it.

    I worry about the degree to which liberal Americans will react to extremism by becoming extreme. Bernie has shown what it looks like to avoid that.

    Democracy has to show that it has the power and authority to rectify this redefinition of America as extreme by throwing those practicing it out of government.

    Part of the political extremism product being distributed by Republican mind buyers is well said above by AG.

    “Stop this President from all the things he has done to bring our country down. It is obvious he had an agenda for doing so.”

    No AG, what President Obama has done is to defend the real America from conservative extremists who have been created for the purpose of changing democracy to oligarchy. Extreme oligarchy.

    We are not going to change to extremists. We are going to continue being the sons and daughters of democracy living free, informed and unafraid.

  22. I live in Canada now, but I grew up in the US and still vote there. I am appalled at the childish, petulant, racist and obstructionist behaviour of the Republicans in congress. There has always been a segment of the population that functions at a knee-jerk level, but they didn’t always have the ear and eye of the media. With greatly expanded media capabilities, everyone has a chance to have his or her opinion, informed or not, out there for all to see. Donald Trump has had more free publicity because of his outrageous behaviour than he should have gotten – and even the HuffPost, which initially declared that he would only be covered on the entertainment pages, has capitulated and made him front page news. From what I have seen and read, Mr. Rubio has experience campaigning but doesn’t actually have any accomplishments to ride on, and Mr. Cruz seems to be gliding on his father’s assertion that “God” has ordained his ascension to the presidency. None of them seem to have any actual governing experience (we won’t even discuss Dr. Carson’s “interesting” takes on history, let alone his lack of political experience). The Republican debates have so far been childish squabbles with no substance. The Democrats, whether you like them or not, have at least behaved like adults and have discussed things that actually matter. I miss some things about living in the US, but truth be told, I am quite happy to be in Canada (though we have our political issues too).

  23. “All of the behaviors that Sheila is lamenting today are standard operating issue for extremists.”

    Pete; this statement is the truth, what you are forgetting or unaware of is the fact that these are the standard operating procedures for the full Congress today – something we have never before had to deal with to this extreme.

    “We are not going to change to extremists. We are going to continue being the sons and daughters of democracy living free, informed and unafraid.”

    Regarding this 2nd copied and pasted comment from you; all I can say is…remove those rose colored glasses that have blinded you. I am not living free, I am better informed but it is meaningless, and I AM afraid. Afraid for this country; which in many instances has lost all self respect and reinstated racism, bigotry, anti-Semitism and added the escalated “war on women”, brought hatred of LGBTs to the forefront and begun passing laws to deny their rights. The scariest item on the GOP list is their total determination for declaring warS – plural – when the chances of the next “boots on the ground” war being here at home increases as the likelihood of their election to the White House increases.

    Be afraid, be very afraid!

  24. During President Obama’s seven years in the White House, I’d say he’s exhibited what I call ‘grace under pressure’.

  25. A motivating factor for the current powers that be is the realization that they will soon not be a majority in this country. They are scrambling to create systems – gerrymandered districts, school vouchers – which will maintain their voting power, not through numbers but through the manufactured systems they have put in place. They are driven by fear and fear breeds hatred. They fear what they don’t know because they have never felt a need to get to know or live in a community with anyone that does not look like them.

  26. Why do you not speak of the hateful things said about Bush even when he was president. Or does that only fit when someone you support is in the White House.

  27. JoAnn. Part of the brand marketing efforts coming at us from business and Republican politics nowadays are specifically designed to evoke fear and anger. Those are very strong and useful emotions to those selling. “I know you’re angry and afraid but let me help you, protect you, soothe you. Just buy my potion, pill, or politician, or eat my natural, organic, unGMO food, or avoid vaccinations, stress, and constipation and happiness and safety are yours thanks be to me.”

    Repelling all of BS takes effort and knowledge that’s fortunately available to everyone but used only by the few who invest in education rather than give in to ignorance.

    To me living free, informed and unafraid (we are the safest people to ever walk the planet) is wealth and it’s available to all of us.

  28. Or, Neko, we should speak of the hateful things Donald Trump says about Bush and his brother right now–and gets standing ovations from Republican audiences.

  29. Neko, remember 2008? It was a collasal mess. It’s taken Obama and us eight years of very diligent work and moving the GOP out of the way daily to get back to what was turned over by Clinton to Bush to start with. We believe in holding Bush accountable for his results. We believe that history has and will always hold him accountable for his results. We also hold Obama and Clinton accountable for their results which have been decidedly positive, though not perfect (human institutions are incapable of perfect), and we expect most Americans to do the same.

  30. “We live in a big, diverse society. There are essentially two ways to maintain order and get things done in such a society — politics or some form of dictatorship. Either through compromise or brute force. Our founding fathers chose politics.”

    “Politics is an activity in which you recognize the simultaneous existence of different groups, interests and opinions. You try to find some way to balance or reconcile or compromise those interests, or at least a majority of them. You follow a set of rules, enshrined in a constitution or in custom, to help you reach these compromises in a way everybody considers legitimate.”

    “The downside of politics is that people never really get everything they want. It’s messy, limited and no issue is ever really settled. Politics is a muddled activity in which people have to recognize restraints and settle for less than they want. Disappointment is normal.”

    “But that’s sort of the beauty of politics, too. It involves an endless conversation in which we learn about other people and see things from their vantage point and try to balance their needs against our own. Plus, it’s better than the alternative: rule by some authoritarian tyrant who tries to govern by clobbering everyone in his way.”


    David Brooks

    This is why extremism always fails. It requires absolute power to maintain it.

  31. One Bush consequence that gets too little consideration. We have lost decades of progress counting the undoing that he did of Clinton progress and the recovery that Obama did of Bush damage.

    Climate change is a great example. We’ve thrown away 3 decades of prime progress time being misled by the GOP and ExxonMobil. The cost implications of that are enormous.

  32. A little arithmetic for your consideration. 20 million less uninsured Americans since ACA, 14 million new Medicaid, and 14 million new Medicare….wait does that mean 8 million less people are insured by private insurers. So my premiums tripled so companies could insure less people? Thanks for a “successful” healthcare reform.

  33. Ken. Do your arithmetic. With health care costs going up every year because they can and make more money regardless of the impact on others is in force with minimum competition, why on earth would you expect health care insurance not to go up commensurately?

  34. Thank, you Sheila. I remember your thoughtful, challenging and reasonable essays when I lived in Indianapolis. Still look on from Los Angeles.
    You echoed my very thoughts – the total and blatant disrespect for the President. What has most bothered me is the “right out loud” statements and challenges. President Obama has truly met them with grace.
    Unfortunately this obstructive behavior has hurt our citizens and weakened our country.

  35. I agree with everything here about the disgraceful treatment of President Obama. Leaders in the Republican Party have seen fit to make demeaning and vicious personal attacks, finding bogus reasons to criticise even his most innocuous actions, and encouraged their base to do the same. Recently Senator Rubio has accused him of lacking class, which says much more about Rubio than about Obama. However, I have been wondering how I myself will be able to go on respecting the office of the presidency if Donald Trump is elected and cheapens it with his coarse, crude and childish behavior. Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio are only marginally less objectionable and also routinely display rude and obnoxious manners. The only answer I can come up with is to do what the Republicans should have been doing for the past many years, and stick as much as possible, to policy disagreements.

  36. Pete! Before ACA, my premiums had gone up 20-25% per year. Since ACA, they’ve gone up 150% per year, all to insure 8 million less people privately. How does that describe success to anyone?

  37. Here’s a hint Ken. Insurance company premiums include covering the total of the claims they have to pay for the coverage they offer plus a percentage, typically about 15%, for their expenses/profit. ACA has no impact on those claim costs except for insuring that more people have coverage of their own and therefore don’t end up in the unrecovered costs that health care providers charge to the insured because they can’t be covered by the uninsured. The only other impact is standardized coverage rules so that health insurance actually covers risks.

    You tell me what of those things went up 2 1/2 X last year.

  38. Rosemary, I live in Europe and am still able to vote and of course, file taxes for the rest of my life with the IRS. That’s the “perk” of being an American citizen. She said that she grew up in the states so I would assume that she’s a citizen like me.

  39. Beverly; I don’t know your age but I am old enough to remember that much of this country lost all respect for Nixon, “all the president’s men” and the presidency during his administration. If you do remember or have read Woodward and Bernstein’s “All The President’s Men” you can see how deep their criminal actions went; and there wasn’t the shameful cheap, course, crude, childish behavior plus the inept business decisions and questionable personal life we see from Trump to forewarn us of what lay beneath the surface of the Nixon administration. Having his first Vice President Spiro Agnew forced to resign for tax evasion should have been a warning. To have Gerald Ford pardon Nixon after his resignation didn’t raise respect for the office for many of us. I had no respect for either Bush, was disappointed bordering on disgust with Bill Clinton but didn’t lose respect for the office of the presidency. We are dealing with never before seen low class with money, severe racist and bigotry in an unAmerican political campaign. He is morally bankrupt and personally disgusting as a man; he allows and encourages distasteful and sometimes violent behavior at his rallys – losing respect for his presidency is something I hope and pray we are never forced to endure.

  40. You whole post reduces to ‘Any counter factual example is dismissed, because….. Democrats’. The idea that you see villians from behind your politicized lenses and not people is actually endemic of the very phenomena you are claiming to dislike.

  41. Pete! They didn’t cover more people, it was 8 millionLESS! I am now covered for pregnancy, which I don’t need, and unlimited mental illness, which I don’t want, and substance abuse treatment, which I don’t need, with triple my prior deductibles. You are not fully informed of the terms of ACA since 92% of all premium collections must cover medical care so 8 percent covers overhead, administration, and profit. (This particular provision guarantees there will be no new insurance providers since starting a company requires much more overhead.) The insurance companies that jacked the premiums through the roof are getting subsidized for the under pricing and many are still leaving many markets. Pete, you can ignore reality and continue to pretend that ACA is a resounding success because you trust the government to handle it properly. But wanting it to be true does not make it so. Recap! 28 million more people on government programs but only 20 million less uninsured means we are going backwards. The government spent $300,000,000,000 on premium subsidies and we end of with 8 million less people insured than before the plan started that would have been more than enough money to let the fed expand Medicaid/Medicare and include all uninsurables without touching the existing insurance industry.

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