Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Are We Allowed To Criticize President Obama?

Jeff Poor of Newsbusters notes that apparently criticizing Obama threatens national security:
The liberal intelligentsia are often all too eager to accuse conservatives of being fear-mongers, purveyors of hate speech, etc. But when they engage in what they accuse conservatives of doing, it's a different set of rules.

Take Newsweek columnist and MSNBC regular Jonathan Alter for example. In an appearance on MSNBC's Jan. 5 "The Rachel Maddow Show," Alter took it to former Vice President Dick Cheney for being critical of the Obama administration - saying the President made us "less safe," which according to Alter, "emboldens" the terrorists (emphasis added).

"The problem, I think, we have now is sort of crystallized by former Vice President Cheney's role in this debate," Alter said. "And I think that he has actually gotten to a place where he is emboldening the terrorists. If you have a former vice president who is saying that our current president is weak - by the way, that's the first time in American history that's ever taken place, that a former president - a former vice president has said the sitting president is not protecting the country. Never happened before, must end."
Not surprisingly, Poor points out that Cheney in fact is not the first former Vice President to criticize a sitting president:
However, one other former vice president did a lot of talking when George W. Bush was in the Oval Office, contrary to Alter's claim. Former Vice President Al Gore in 2004 at a Democratic rally in Nashville, Tenn. launched into a loud and shrill tirade about Bush: "He betrayed this country! He played on our fears. He took America on an ill-conceived foreign adventure dangerous to our troops, an adventure preordained and planned before 9/11 ever took place."
Maybe it's me, but I would think that criticizing a sitting president for making us "less safe" is quite different than accusing a president of betraying our country. I have not compared the statements Cheney has made, but from what I have seen, one of the qualties that Cheney has shown is class--a quality that Bush has demonstrated as well, and one that Obama--who readily blames all problems on the former president--lacks.

Then again, criticism is not something the Democratic party has a history of taking--or giving--very well.

Last year, Jonah Goldberg wrote a post about the claim that there was a decided lack of civility these days in partisan politics that was simply not seen in earlier years.

Goldberg writes:
When was this Golden Age of civility?

Was this glorious era of politeness during George W. Bush’s presidency? Funny, that’s not how I remember it.

So maybe the 1990s was the last great outpouring of lovingkindness? Hmmm, no. At least I don’t think Clarence Thomas would say so. Nor do I think anyone who watched the Clinton show would claim it was a hallmark of sober debate on either side. Clinton’s minions attacked victims of his sexual aggression or revelations about his accomplices in his adultery as “bimbo eruptions.” Was civility the norm when Rep. Charlie Rangel said of Newt Gingrich’s Contract with America, “Hitler wasn’t even talking about doing these things”?

Was it the 1980s, when Ronald Reagan was routinely dubbed a nuclear-trigger-happy “amiable dunce”? I was young then, so I’ll check with Robert Bork and see what he thinks.

Perhaps it was in the 1960s and 1970s? Sure, there was admirable civil disobedience in the beginning, but there was a lot more uncivil disobedience, what with all the domestic terror attacks and the protesters asking LBJ how many kids he killed today.

The 1950s? Who knew the McCarthy era was such a high-water mark of domestic tranquility? What about the 1930s? America saw its worst labor violence, and FDR had to put up with demagogues like Huey Long and Father Coughlin (who attacked him from the left, by the way). How about the 1910s, when Woodrow Wilson threw political opponents in jail? Or in 1919, when he dubbed “hyphenated Americans” (i.e. German-Americans) traitors? “I cannot say too often — any man who carries a hyphen about with him carries a dagger that he is ready to plunge into the vitals of this Republic. . . . If I can catch any man with a hyphen in this great contest I will know that I have got an enemy of the Republic.”

Okay, enough of all that.

And yes, let me offer a sincere denunciation of rudeness for rudeness’s sake. Let me also concede that there is no shortage of bilious, nasty rhetoric on the right.
But here’s the thing. First, it was ever thus. American democracy has always been a hurly-burly. More important, a lot of the complaints about incivility today are really complaints from the people in power or their supporters in the media, aimed at the folks who won’t shut up and get with their program.

And there’s something distinctly undemocratic about that.

The civility caterwaulers claim that Obama’s opponents are trying to “delegitimize” the president, often suggesting that such efforts are racist. But what some see as delegitimization, others see as criticism. What strikes me as truly uncivil is the effort to demonize critics of the president with racial bullying.[emphasis added]

Yes, the Republicans are able to give as good as they get, but these days it seems there are some in the Democratic Party who are not so much interested in civility as in servility.

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