Posted by: Jeff | October 24, 2009

The Fantastical Criticism of Barack Obama

When George W. Bush was President, the criticism from the Left was widespread and heated.  But it seems to me – and I am open to correction on this point – that the opposition and critique was largely rooted in fact.  George W. Bush did, it would seem, in fact use cocaine.  He did have a poor attendance record in the Texas Air National Guard before failing altogether to show up for training at his reassigned unit in Alabama.  He did engage in a preventative war in defiance of the UN Security Council, openly challenging the legitimacy of international law on preemptive engagements in order to rush to war with Iraq.

Enter Barack Obama.  The Right’s reaction to his Presidency was never expected to be warm, but the battle lines drawn in the sand by conservative critics are confusing to say the least.  Barack Obama wasn’t born here.  He’s a secret Muslim.  He’s a terrorist.  He is part of the corrupt Chicago machine.  He’s transforming this country into socialism/fascism/communism/Tsarist (anti-communist) Russia.  He hates the Constitution.  Are there facts behind any of these allegations?

The “birther” movement has lost some steam, but there still exists a broad segment of conservative America that truly believe that Obama’s Kenyan father (an Atheist Muslim) had enough foresight to plant a fake birth announcement in the newspapers of a peripheral US state – one that nobody would really watch that closely – on the offhand chance that his son would grow up to be President of the Harvard Law Review and the greatest orator of our generation. Conspiratorially, the Attorney General of the state of Hawaii, when transferring birth records to electronic files, thought it a shame that this really awesome community organizer in Chicago wouldn’t be eligible to be President. So they forged a certificate of live birth and put it in the system to ensure his future eligibility.  Then, some years later, the Hawaii Department of Health lied about it and guaranteed the authenticity of the document.  Clearly, Occam’s Razor does not apply when decades-long nefarious plots to put an African in power are in play.

Similarly, the right-wing commentariat were put in a tizzy on Thursday and Friday over the “revelation” that Barack Obama conducted his senior thesis not on the Bilateral Anti-Proliferation Regimes in the Cold War, but on his hatred of the United States Constitution.  Except that this wasn’t true either.  A piece appeared on a blog that appeared to incriminate Obama as an anti-Constitution, anti-capitalist zealot, and conservative radio ran with it, no questions asked.  Well, when someone got around to asking Joe Klein, who was cited in the piece, about his opinion on the Obama thesis, he thoroughly debunked the article as untrue (having not seen a copy of the thesis he supposedly discovered and all).  Oops.  Some conservatives, to their credit, took this to mean that this particular line of attack on Obama has been discredited.  Others, unfortunately, are sticking to their ill-founded conclusions.

Clearly political discourse in this country is not healthy and robust.  There are a number of substantial criticisms I have of the Obama Administration, but wasting time and words on throwing allegations based on nothing more than hearsay at the White House does everyone a disservice.  We have a number of substantive issues that require real debate – health care reform is on the floor of the Senate, the future of Afghanistan is being determined now, gay marriage continues to be an unspoken political wedge.  Can we get back to critiquing the President for what he’s done or proposes to do and not what we think he might have thought but have no evidence that he actually did?  Our newfound obsession with whimsical conspiracies is killing the American optimism and pragmatism that made us great.



  1. Joe Klein, you are a moron.
    How in hell does someone who writes as poorly as you get paid for doing so.
    Get your head out of the Democrats rear and report facts please
    you are a disgrace

  2. Just a note of clarification: I’m not Joe Klein. But thanks for complimenting the prose!

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