31 Jan 2022

The White House — Home to the People’s Choice (Part I of III)


(For Better or Worse)

How in Heck Did It Get THIS Bad?

Political discourse (dis-coarse!) continues descent to the depths of the chasm separating our nation’s two political parties. Can it go lower than a snake’s butt in a wagon rut? Sure. The animus goes beyond invective — elected officials (Maxine Waters, et al.) and political activists openly advocate public physical confrontations with their opponents. 

In the rough and tumble of political tugs of war, emotions unleashed have had regrettable consequences. Thomas Jefferson and John Adams so angered each other they did not speak for more than 20 years. In the 1850s when the slavery debate raged, Rep. Preston Brooks entered the Senate and beat Sen. Charles Sumner to unconsciousness with a cane typically used to discipline unruly dogs. 

Fast forward a century to the origins of today’s bilious political interchanges. “Thank” Wisconsin’s Sen. Joe McCarthy for his scurrilous and unfounded Communist witch hunts. That was followed by the Alger Hiss spy case and elevation of Richard Nixon to national prominence. He acquired the “Tricky Dick” moniker, later earning it when he declared, erroneously, “I am not a crook.” 

Gerald Ford earned derisive television characterizations when he stumbled down some stairs, Jimmy Carter was widely perceived as an incompetent with rubes for relatives. His energy policy was deeply flawed, he resolutely declared the nation needed to don sweaters as we were out of natural gas.  

Tip O’Neill hung a beauty on Ronald Reagan when he belittled him as “an amiable dunce.” George H.W. Bush was scorned as a patrician so out of touch with the public that he was undeservedly characterized as baffled by a supermarket price scanner. A falsehood that nevertheless stuck. Even his thousand points of light visual of the country was derided. 

Thanks to a lackluster campaign, and the candidacy of H. Ross Perot and his giant sucking sound characterizing potential job losses, the first Bush era was ushered to the exits to the catcalls of the “No new taxes” broken promise. 

That level of scorn was child’s play compared with the sordid chapters of the Clinton presidency — reputed shady land deals, the death of Vince Foster, impeachment, a “vast right-wing conspiracy,” and later the Clinton Foundation and its relentless pursuit of fees. 

George W. Bush was labeled an idiot oilman, a reformed alcoholic, his chipper attitude did him in after a high point in his response to 9/11. His plaudits for FEMA director Michael Brown earned him scorn for the remainder of his presidency with a final kick in the shins when the economy cratered near the end of his term. “I blame Bush” was an all-too-common utterance in response to any negative development. It didn’t help when he asserted that the U.S. was “addicted to foreign oil.” 

The incivility of discourse reached new lows with the ascension of a community organizer with virtually zero credentials was elected and declared “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.” The Narcissist in Chief proclaimed he would “lead from behind,” named Eric Holder Attorney General who believed it was a promising idea to run guns to criminals in Mexico, shrugged off an IRS that refused tax exempt status to conservative non-profits, and was an acolyte of a preacher who uttered such unifying pronouncements as “God damn America.” To boot, not until her middle 40s, could his spouse state “for the first time in my adult life I am finally proud of my country.” 

As Barack Obama’s eight-year run was winding down, the next White House occupant would be the last candidate standing after one of the ugliest ever primaries in both parties. 

With the end of the Obama administration, a maelstrom of invective, name calling, truculence and sheer chaos was visited upon the U.S. The narcissism of the new President made his predecessor appear humble and deferential by comparison.

Next up, MAGA and all that goes with it. 

2 Responses to The White House — Home to the People’s Choice (Part I of III)
  1. Comment * Well, without discussing your characterizations of various presidents of the past, I think you make a very important point, which I take to be that political nastiness has been around for while and shows no sigh of improvement. You mention Adams and Jefferson, but there is much, much more from the 19th century and beyond as you well know. My own take is that the current scene is NOT anything very new and historical perspective, which naturally most people don’t have, suggests treating the current situation as nothing particularly crisis-like. Politics is not, as the saying goes, beanbag and never has been here or anywhere.

    • I am reading Robert Herman’s The Viking Heart. It confirms political nastiness has been around for quite awhile. The Norse penchant for political infighting, war and intrigue was an every day fact of life. Previously Julius Caesar, Brutus, Marc Antony and Cleopatra were no slouches at the political game. Agreed that the present situation is a non-crisis. It is merely another low in a long sordid history of miscalculation, vanity and sheer stupidity.


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