I've been listening to the way conservatives have been trying to frame their distaste for Obama for well over a year, and they are all over the place. Of course, there are the Birthers who believe he isn't a citizen so the election is illegal. There are some who think he has to be a criminal because he's from Chicago. And there are those who insinuate that he's stupid. Their evidence is that he has made misstatements, the most famous being that once he claimed to have visited all 57 states, that he says "um" and "er" when speaking off the cuff, and that he's no good without a teleprompter.
This week, Barack Obama went in front of a group of House Republicans and had a dialogue with them for 82 minutes. Left wing websites will tell you Obama made them look bad, right wing websites will tell you they made Obama look bad. Here are two more telling responses. House Republican aides are now saying they should never have let it be televised, and Fox News broke off coverage about 20 minutes before it was over to give more time to a panel of Obama bashers.
It was a 100 against 1 battle, and the 100 were badly outclassed. Regardless of your political persuasion, you have to admit Obama did something no American politician has had the guts to do in over 50 years. It goes without saying that George W. Bush would have been eaten alive if the tables were turned, but nobody, not Clinton, not Reagan, not Nixon, LBJ or JFK ever even tried this. British politicians have to do it every week on Question Time. The vast majority of American politicians would fold like cheap lawn chairs if they had to do this, or they would just mouth the party line. Obama can think on his feet, and that isn't easy.
Conservatives have not come together in a single cohesive group to decide exactly what are the acceptable reasons to hate Barack Obama. You have the crazies who think he's a foreigner, you have the populists who think he's an elitist, you have a lot of people who don't know what socialism is who think he's a socialist and you have the racists who think he must be stupid because he is part black.
I've heard this kind of "speaking in code" before. Years ago, I used to play golf at the crack of dawn and the foursome would often have breakfast together afterwards. One of the guys had a deep hatred of Willie Brown and expressed it over eggs and hash browns one day. While Brown is a Democratic politician and allegedly liberal, I was not up to defending him against charges of being a crook, because he was and is a crook. But at the end of the rant, my golfing buddy called Brown "stupid". That I challenged. Whatever else Willie Brown is, he is shrewd and a gifted politician, not unlike other people I have a hard time defending like Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon. The way my golfing partner sputtered when pressed on this point, I got the distinct impression that he only called Brown stupid because Brown is black.
I think part of the "Obama is stupid" crowd want to get back at the leftists who mocked George W. Bush and still mock Sarah Palin for being dull-witted. While the desire for tit-for-tat revenge is understandable, the problem is that Bush and Palin did show themselves to be stupid on many occasions. It's not just how well they did in school or the considerable number of gaffes they have made in public speaking. It's the times they were asked questions and had no cohesive answers, but still managed to babble for twenty seconds in some completely meaningless run-on sentence that they thought would fool the listener. When people are as intellectually challenged as Bush and Palin, being stupid is so deeply ingrained in them that they don't even realize they are stupid.
Barack Obama has his faults, as all of us do. But being stupid isn't one of them, and the right wing would do well to keep those who want to call him stupid as far away from microphones as possible.