It's a term that many on the Left routinely employ to describe the sundry travails and triumphs of President Barack Obama. They believe the man is singularly historic in every conceivable way. This fact of life also -- if not especially -- applies to the nature of his opposition. The way the story goes, Barack Obama's presidency has been marred by a toxic and unique strain of political resistance. Opposing a president from the opposite party is one thing, they say, but the manner in which Republicans have treated Obama betrays something far more sinister than garden variety politics. The rarely-unspoken subtext is that the GOP's groundbreaking vitriol and obstruction has been reserved for Obama because he's black. By abiding and advancing this claim, Obama's supporters allege that conservatives have sought to delegitimize the president from his very first day in office. Ironically, the reverse is closer to the truth; dating back to the 2008 campaign, many liberals have maliciously conflated conservative objections to Obama's policies with thinly-veiled racism. Hurling the racism charge is a particularly insidious method of disqualifying Obama's critics, which is the whole point. Concerns over wrongful IRS targeting? Racism. Strenuous disapproval of Obamacare? Racism. MSNBC host Chris Matthews is one of the president's most servile and reactionary media loyalists. The former newsman has consistently been one of the Left's chief hand-wringers vis-a- vis GOP criticisms of Obama. As the administration founders under the weight of major policy failures and sinking public approval ratings (both of which Democrats blame on Republicans, naturally), Matthews' smears have grown more vituperative. Reflecting on the death of former South African president Nelson Mandela last week, the Hardball anchor fulsomely praised and adopted the analysis of career race-baiter and fellow MSNBC host Al Sharpton:
I haven’t heard anything as smart as what I heard Reverend Sharpton say a couple minutes ago in five years. That is the most perceptive thing I’ve seen. It just rocks me. The difference between the way F.W. de Klerk handled the need for change and inevitable election, democratic election of Nelson Mandela, a legitimate election, truly legitimate for the first time. [De Klerk] was never legitimately elected. For him to recognize his role in history which was to be a patriot at that point is so different than the way Mitch McConnell handled the election of Obama. So different. To set it up that way, the juxtaposition, they were willing, the McConnell people onto the far right were willing to destroy the country in order to destroy Obama, whereas to succeed in a country he loved, F.W. de Klerk was willing to see it transformed to black rule so that it could be done successfully so he would have his country have a better future. Reverend, I owe it to you. I think that is the key statement about what happened yesterday, the loss of Mandela and what his history is about and the key statement of why this has been so poisonous the last five years. We have real people in this country with real power and status who have used that status of power to hurt the country so they could hurt the president. That’s the most damming assessment I’ve heard and, I think, the truest.
Matthews shouted that the "key statement" about Mandela's passing is that it helped underscore how Sen. Mitch McConnell compares unfavorably to the last leader of South Africa's overtly racist apartheid regime. F.W. de Klerk, he announced, outclasses today's Senate Republican leader on the rubrics of patriotism and statesmanship. Think about that. The erstwhile Democratic staffer pressed his case further on Morning Joe:
Obama “has had a very difficult opposition out there … who from the very beginning wanted to destroy this presidency,” he said. “And some of it is ethnic, and some is good old ideology. But they way they treated this guy is unusual in our history...Al Gore accepted the fact, even though he won by 600,000 votes, that W. was president. And the Democrats accepted the legitimacy of George W. Bush 100 percent,” he added, when host Joe Scarborough tried to push back a bit. “There is an asymmetry here between the hard right and the Democratic center, there is a real asymmetry, Joe,” he continued. “There really is. And to say that they are both the same is not true.”
This is tendentious nonsense that betrays an aggressive form of selective memory disorder -- a malady common in hardcore partisans. Matthews misremembers and whitewashes the Bush years, which are hardly ancient history. Let's recall just a few examples of the Left's treatment of President George W. Bush: Within minutes of the 2000 election's controversial resolution, liberals were printing up bumper stickers emblazoned with slogans such as "not my president," and "selected, not elected." Clinton administration staffers removed the 'W' keys from many White House keyboards as Team Bush transitioned into office. Lefties regularly compared Bush to Hitler and apes. A feature-length film was produced
fantasizing about depicting Bush's assassination, to critical acclaim. Senate Democrats launched unprecedented filibusters against Bush's lower-court judicial nominees, opposing one exceptionally-qualified pick in part because "he is Latino." (When Republicans answered in kind during the Obama years, Senate Democrats broke Senate rules and nuked the filibuster). In order to obstruct Bush from making contentious recess appointments, Democrats pioneered a practice that technically kept the Senate in session in perpetuity. (When Republicans answered in kind during the Obama years, Obama simply decreed that the Senate was in recess, and made his appointments anyway). Harry Reid called President Bush "a loser." Keith Olbermann, then a host on Matthews' network, bellowed at the top of his lungs on-air that "Mr. Bush" should "shut the hell up." While much is made of the small right-wing faction that doubts President Obama's status as a natural born citizen, far less attention has been paid to the 51 percent of self-identified Democrats who told pollsters in 2006 that they believe it was at least "somewhat" or "very" likely that Bush administration officials suppressed advanced warnings of the 9/11 attacks in order to precipitate, and presumably profit from, war. Indeed, several Democratic members of Congress indulged those insane accusations, as did a future Obama appointee. If ever there were an arresting and self-explanatory illustration of the depth and ferocity of Democrats' unhinged anti-Bush nuttery, it is Dana Milbank's Washington Post column published on June 17, 2005:
In the Capitol basement yesterday, long-suffering House Democrats took a trip to the land of make-believe. They pretended a small conference room was the Judiciary Committee hearing room, draping white linens over folding tables to make them look like witness tables and bringing in cardboard name tags and extra flags to make the whole thing look official. Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) banged a large wooden gavel and got the other lawmakers to call him "Mr. Chairman." He liked that so much that he started calling himself "the chairman" and spouted other chairmanly phrases, such as "unanimous consent" and "without objection so ordered." The dress-up game looked realistic enough on C-SPAN, so two dozen more Democrats came downstairs to play along. The session was a mock impeachment inquiry over the Iraq war. As luck would have it, all four of the witnesses agreed that President Bush lied to the nation and was guilty of high crimes -- and that a British memo on "fixed" intelligence that surfaced last month was the smoking gun equivalent to the Watergate tapes...
At Democratic headquarters, where an overflow crowd watched the hearing on television, activists handed out documents repeating two accusations -- that an Israeli company had warning of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and that there was an "insider trading scam" on 9/11 -- that previously has been used to suggest Israel was behind the attacks. The event organizer, Democrats.com, distributed stickers saying "Bush lied/100,000 people died." One man's T-shirt proclaimed, "Whether you like Bush or not, he's still an incompetent liar," while a large poster of Uncle Sam announced: "Got kids? I want yours for cannon fodder." Conyers's firm hand on the gavel could not prevent something of a free-for-all; at one point, a former State Department worker rose from the audience to propose criminal charges against Bush officials. Early in the hearing, somebody accidentally turned off the lights; later, a witness knocked down a flag. Matters were even worse at Democratic headquarters, where the C-SPAN feed ended after just an hour, causing the activists to groan and one to shout "Conspiracy!"
Read the whole thing for bonus moonbattery. Just imagine the reaction if House Republican back-benchers decided to conduct faux impeachment proceedings against Barack Obama somewhere in the bowels of the Capitol. The media's ridicule and opprobrium would be deafening. Indeed, Chris Matthews may feel compelled to host a special four-hour edition of Hardball to explore the distressing racial angles to the "unprecedented" spectacle, replete with expert guests on white supremacist militias and dog-whistles -- and, of course, Joan Walsh. But enough of this hypothetical scenario. Democrats' actual Bush-era theatrics negate any need for parodic speculation. Because Chris Matthews' memory is evidently too spotty to recall the events of the mid-2000's, perhaps he'll manage to remember what transpired in Wisconsin just last year. Badger State Democrats, cheered on by their counterparts in Washington, attempted to oust the state's duly-elected governor via a do-over election. Scott Walker's crime? Using the democratic process to implement budget reforms that liberals and Big Labor vehemently opposed.
The organized Left pulled out all the disruptive stops to block these measures from even receiving a vote. Thousands of left-wingers occupied the capitol rotunda in Madison, issuing death threats against Walker and other Republicans. A horde of protesters chased the terrified family of the Senate Majority Leader from their home. 'Walker = Hitler' placards were ubiquitous, an ignorant comparison that was echoed by at least one Democratic member of the state legislature. State senate Democrats fled to Illinois, where they shacked up in a hotel, to obstruct a vote on the governor's proposal. When they were eventually defeated on the yeas and nays, Wisconsin's Democrats instigated a furious recall effort, wasting millions on an ill-fated attempt remove the state's chief executive from office -- not over malfeasance, mind you, but over policy disputes. Forget isolated outbursts ("you lie!") and expressions of explicit (albeit unremarkable) partisanship. When Mitch McConnell and company collectively decamp to Canada to prevent budget votes, while Michelle Bachmann and dozens of her colleagues stage a conspiracy theory-laden mock impeachment trial in a Capitol Hill basement, Chris Matthews may have a leg to stand on. And even then, such extreme manifestations of anti-Obama sentiment would not be "unprecedented!"
Guy Benson is Townhall.com's Political Editor. Follow him on Twitter @guypbenson. He is co-authors with Mary Katharine Ham for their new book End of Discussion: How the Left's Outrage Industry Shuts Down Debate, Manipulates Voters, and Makes America Less Free (and Fun).
Author Photo credit: Jensen Sutta Photography