The Right’s Obama

Apr 3 2012 @ 11:21am

It has long befuddled me – the way so many on the right view him not with disagreement or discernment, but with contempt. Contempt is a strong word; and it is built on some notion of his illegitimacy as president. They called Clinton illegitimate as well, of course, because of his plurality victory in 1992 (he never quite made it to 50 percent of the vote in 1996 either). But Obama? A clear electoral victory by a black candidate after one of the most brilliant underdog campaigns in our lifetimes. I suppose the right's view that racism no longer exists in America defuses the racial barrier. But it's telling, is it not, that very, very few Republicans have hailed the election of a bi-racial man as president, if only to celebrate the progress this country has made.

Why not fear of Obama's charm? Or suspicion of his cunning? Why not coopt this oh-so-willing-to-be-coopted figure to move his policies to the right (as if the individual mandate, extension of Bush tax cuts, and escalation of the war in Afghanistan could get further right)?

No. Instead we have contempt. A president who can be shouted at during a State of the Union address; a president whose birth certificate, readily available, is still questioned; a president who is regarded by an unthinkable chunk of Republicans as a Muslim; a president who allegedly cannot speak a full sentence without a TelePrompter; or, in Glenn Reynolds' immortal words, "a racist hatemonger."

Every now and again, they tip their hand in further weirdness. One of the more Kinsley-esque moments in contemporary Washington is the spectacle of every liberal in the town now bemoaning judicial activism, and every conservative celebrating the courts as a vital part of our constitutional system. Why, it's enough to make someone a little jaded. In that vein, comes one Michael Walsh who just had a conniption about the president's attack on the Supreme Court yesterday. It speaks to the right's view of this president:

Obama’s only tough contest came in the 2008 primaries, when he ambushed the fat and complacent Clintons by rabbit-punching Hillary and hanging on in the face of her furious counter-attack to eke out a split-decision victory. Of the general election that year, the less said the better. As the gangster, Johnny Caspar, says in Miller’s Crossing, “If you can’t trust a fix, what can you trust?”

But there inevitably comes the time when the fix isn’t in, when the opponent didn’t get the memo to take the dive, or when the mob simply tires of a champion who’s outlived his usefulness and seeks another tomato can.

Walsh is clearly implying that the election of 2008 was "fixed" or "rigged." And when you think about it, this has to be the case, or else their contempt for Obama would have to be leavened by at least some respect for one of the most brilliant underdog presidential campaigns in modern times. But not even that. Not even in the killing of Osama bin Laden could they give him any credit.

Is this rank racism, pure partisanship, class resentment, or some toxic combination of them all?