Carol Platt Liebau

In a column pointing out the obvious -- though a good speaker, Barack Obama doesn't like people, isn't a terribly good leader, and is among his own worst enemies -- Richard Cohen casually slimes a substantial part of the American electorate.  (http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/richard-cohen-barack-obama-enigma-in-chief/2012/09/04/2ce8270c-f6b5-11e1-8b93-c4f4ab1c8d13_story.html).

He writes:

Obama has been called a liar — shouted by a congressman during a nationally televised address to Congress, in fact. His citizenship has been impugned, his vaguely leftist views have been caricatured as socialist, the best-seller list seems always to have a sulfuric anti-Obama diatribe on it, and — the questionable polls notwithstanding — some of the furious opposition to him reeks of a deep, not superficial, racism. To some, Obama just doesn’t look like a president.

Shame on Richard Cohen for casually smearing his fellow Americans in such a thoughtless manner. How can he, a product of the Beltway elite, presume to peer into the hearts, minds and souls of the President's opponents?

First, respectable Republicans of all stripes have repeatedly ignored (and even ridiculed) birthers. Second -- although to some few bigots, perhaps Obama "just doesn't look like a president" -- in fairness, Cohen should concede that to some, neither did George W. Bush.

No, no one called George W. a liar during the State of the Union.  Instead, Harry Reid -- Democrat Senate leader, not just a backbencher! -- accused him of being a liar on the floor of the US Senate (http://www.politico.com/blogs/glennthrush/0909/Reid_called_Bush_liar_stood_by_comment.html), and unlike the congressman Cohen alludes to, he never apologized.  Others who thought Bush didn't "look like a president" routinely called him "Chimpy McHitler" -- even after he had left office (http://gawker.com/5271585/bush-exiled-to-canada). (Imagine if someone on the right had used a similar sobriquet for Obama!)

And even as Cohen decries the "sulfuric anti-Obama diatribe[s]" on the bestseller list, he apparently forgets about such gems as Molly Ivins' "Bushwacked," Michael Moore's "Dude, Where's My Country?"  and the "I Hate George Bush Reader," among a host of others (http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/26/books/review/Beam-t.html).  In terms of the "tone," anybody but me remember Jonathan Chait's "case for Bush hatred" in The New Republic (http://www.tnr.com/article/mad-about-you#)?  It was full of gems like this:

I hate George W. Bush . . .I hate the way he walks--shoulders flexed, elbows splayed out from his sides like a teenage boy feigning machismo. I hate the way he talks--blustery self-assurance masked by a pseudopopulist twang. I even hate the things that everybody seems to like about him. I hate his lame nickname-bestowing-- a way to establish one's social superiority beneath a veneer of chumminess (does anybody give their boss a nickname without his consent?). And, while most people who meet Bush claim to like him, I suspect that, if I got to know him personally, I would hate him even more.

Anyone remember "Death of a President" -- the movie based on a supposed assassination of President Bush (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0853096/)? Or the book featuring a plot against President Bush's life (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A13374-2004Jun28.html)?  For sheer invective, check out Democratic Underground's board soliciting "your best anti-Bush insults, tirades, eptihets and screeds!" (http://www.democraticunderground.com/discuss/duboard.php?az=view_all&address=105x464309).  One includes calling Barbara Bush an unrpintably perjorative name for women.

Funny, I don't remember Cohen objecting. In a country blessed with a First Amendment, there will always be those who abuse their free expression rights -- and those whose opposition to a President passes the bounds of decorum in what they write or say.

Why is it assumed on the part of Cohen and others on the left that the opposition to President Obama must be primariliy based on his race? Compared to the venom to which President Bush was subjected, President Obama's actually had it pretty easy. The objections to him have centered on his policies -- and judging from their results, the objections are well-justified. Explain that, Richard Cohen.


Carol Platt Liebau

Carol Platt Liebau is an attorney, political commentator and guest radio talk show host based near New York. Learn more about her new book, "Prude: How the Sex-Obsessed Culture Hurts Young Women (and America, Too!)" here.