Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Republican Rage Set Up One of Their Own

There's so much to do before I leave for the beach this weekend. Like I said earlier, I hadn't planned on making the trip this year, so when I found out that my excuse for not going to the beach wouldn't work out, I had to cram several weeks worth of planning into a couple of days. As part of my mad dash to get ready to relax (some irony there, no? I heard a cruise ship captain interviewed on an NPR program lament that when Americans go on vacation the treat it in much the same way as they treat their work, trying to maximize every moment. Instead of relaxing and enjoying their time on ship, doing only the things they really want to do, they try to cram everything in, all at once, creating a chaotic and stressful environment. I am, after all, an American, even if I don't always eat like one) I went to an optometrist today, to get a new prescription and order some contact lenses.

Why do contacts constitute a necessity on the beach? Simple. Without them, I can't wear sunglasses, unless I want to shell out for some prescription sunglasses, which would still have required a visit to the optometrist. And, of course, you need sunglasses on the beach.

I remember the one year I went to the beach without sunglasses. I had just graduated from high school, and for the first time in my life I was going on a vacation without my family. My friend Andrew invited me to go with his family on their beach vacation, and I just couldn't resist. But not having my Mom to hold my hand through the planning and packing, I forgot some essentials. Like sunglasses. Those long walks on the beach were anything but relaxing with the glare from the sun rising up from the gorgeous white sand, burning my eyes. I spent most of the week inside.

On the way back from the visiting the optometrist I saw a bumper sticker which reminded me that the last two presidents may be the two most hated leaders in our nation's history (though what do I know about history?). It read:

I'm Not Anti-Bush;
I'm Just Pro-Intellegence.


While this is sly, subtle, and more than just a little bit funny, it is not exactly an articulate political statement. It does, however, have good company in the pantheon of Bush-bashing bumper statements. Some of my favorites include:

A picture of a very menacing looking President Bush, with a caption that reads:
American Terrorist

Another stock photo of the current president, with a caption that reads:
Not My President

A drawing of a cartoonish running man, wearing a cowboy hat roughly the size of Texas, with a caption that reads:
Somewhere in Texas a Village is Missing its Idiot

And, of course, there are a whole host of others, arguing either that the president is evil, stupid, or simply illegitimate. I have some sympathy for the messages of these bumper stickers - I have a great deal more in common with the people who would put them on their car than I do with people whose cars would say simply

W
The President


as though we weren't already painfully aware of that.

But as much as I might agree with the political agenda of people who cannot help but voice their frustration or despair or even outrage at the man who currently holds the office of the president and the reckless decisions which he has made from that office, I don't see the proliferation of anti-presidential automotive messages as a good thing for this country. I'm not saying that people shouldn't be allowed to put such messages on their car, nor am I saying that they should be shamed for doing so. Rather I am saying that the proliferation of such messages reflects a toxic political environment.

It is perhaps fitting that the current recipient of such toxicity is someone whose political career has so benefited from the same toxicity which now threatens to effectively destroy it. President Bush was elected in part because of former Vice President Gore's fear of "Clinton fatigue," a by-product of the political toxicity created by conservative and Republican backlash at President Clinton, an irrationally hated figure in much of America. While Clinton's natural charm and charisma was enough to make more than half of the country love him just as passionately as the other just-slightly-less-than half of the country hated and still hates him; his infinitely less charismatic, and, well, staid and stoic former running mate ran as far away from him as he could in the 2000 Presidential election, running himself right out of office, even as he collected a slight majority of the votes.

But all of that is old news. I bring it up now because I have heard more than a few Republicans complain about how their opponents show nothing but contempt for the president, and as such for the presidency. I don't have much sympathy for them. After all, they are the ones who made this bed, and now we all have to lie in it. As the famous bumper sticker reads:

No One Died When Clinton Lied

but the moral indignation of some already indignant blow-hards and hypocrites forced this country through a divisive impeachment process as the culmination of a campaign to cripple an opponent they couldn't beat fairly.

Perhaps the biggest victim of the campaign to "get" President Clinton, to catch him doing something so sinister that the rest of us fools would finally know just how evil this charming anti-Christ really is, was the office of the president. Now presidents are more than fair game for childish ad hominem attacks, and a Republican president is now on the receiving end.

5 comments:

Tom said...

This one ties it all together nicely:

Could someone give him a blowjob so we can have him impeached?

Brian Cubbage said...

My sister told me that someone who parks in her parking garage downtown has a small black square sticker on his car that says this:

"F
The President"

As to your substantive point, I think you're right, but there seems to be one difference you overlook. I don't recall seeing a whole lot of anti-Clinton bumper stickers; there were some, I guess, but I've seen a lot more anti-Bush stickers. Does this mean that Bush hatred is more vehement, more of a blight on civic discourse, than Clinton hatred was? Not necessarily. Instead of getting channeled into bumper stickers and other low-grade attempts to influence public opinion, Clinton hatred was channeled into lawyers and wealthy conservative foundations and think tanks that used government power against Clinton, ultimately getting him impeached.

I find the different strategies interesting. Clinton got impeached, but he still left office with high approval ratings. But public opinion never really mattered; the effort to get Clinton never had much to do with popular opinion or will. Bush to date hasn't been impeached, but his approval ratings are still low. Clinton didn't have an Iraq war to deal with, of course. But then again, the Iraq war didn't have much to do with popular opinion or will, either, or at least not popular will that hadn't been manipulated by disinformation.

Liam said...

Interesting that you've brought it up at a time when I was thinking of how so many people on the right talk about how the left suffers from an "obsessive" or "pathological" hatred of Bush. I asked myself if my feelings about this president had become irrationally negative.

The answer, and I think an honest answer, is no. Bush is an amazing conglomeration of everything bad about American politics -- plutocracy; demogoguery; corruption; an anti-democratic Nixonian urge to concentrate power in the executive and subdue the press; election fraud on many levels; an arrogant, hypocritical, violent and clueless foreign policy; a lack of any concern for the poor and vulnerable... I could go on.

I guess someone has to be the worst at a given thing. It's weird to compare Bush and Clinton as hated presidents--The fact that Clinton, as moderate as he was, was so hated by the right is more indicative of how little they will tolerate loss of power. It's actually very disquieting.

Amy said...

On a lighter note than these others - I also went to the optometrist, but on Tuesday. Where do you go? I went to St. Matthews Vision Center, out on Shelbyville - I'm leaving my job at the call center, so I'm losing my vision insurance on Saturday, and I wanted to get in beforehand. My new glasses will be waiting for me when I get back from South America... It had be 3 and 1/2 years since my last visit...

Sandalstraps said...

Tom,

*speechless*

Brian,

I've seen that bumper sticker; alas it escaped my mind when I was coming up with good ones. It sums up the attitude that I was wrestling with very well.

There were some slyly anti-Clinton bumper stickers, but they were few and far between. My favorite read:

Charlton Heston is my President

Anyone who would choose a senial and psychotic gun nut over the actual president, however bad they think that president is, is not someone who should be trusted with a vote.

But you're right. By and large the Republicans fought Clinton with raw power rather than persuasion. There were more than a few anti-Clinton books and talk radio rants, but they were preaching to the converted rather than trying to convert the heathen liberals, many of whom hated Clinton for other reasons.

Liam,

I guess someone has to be the worst at a given thing.

I find it disturbing that previously the list of worst presidents in history contained mostly presidents who were so inept that they either didn't have a vision or couldn't execute their vision. Jimmy Carter, perhaps the greatest ex-president, was a terrible president because he simply couldn't get anything done. He failed to understand the Washington culture, and so had no idea how to communicate his vision to the people he needed to help make that vision a reality.

Similarly, some of the terrible presidents of the 19th Century, such forgettables as Polk, Taylor, Pierce, and Buchanan, were bad presidents not so much because of anything they did, but because they didn't do anything.

But Bush is a new breed of spectacularly bad president, an idiot with just enough power to do potentially irreparable harm.

The fact that Clinton, as moderate as he was, was so hated by the right is more indicative of how little they will tolerate loss of power.

A philosophy professor of mine once said that, if you're looking only at social and economic policies rather than disposition, Nixon was in fact more liberal than Clinton. That says a great deal about the direction of this country post-Nixon, and particularly post-Regan. But it also says something about those idiots who claim that Clinton was the most radically liberal president in our history.

If Clinton had run for office anytime between, say the New Deal and the Regan years, he might have been too conservative to get elected. Of course, with his charisma and charm he might have been electable at any point in history, since his appeal was more personal than political or ideological. And that may be why the right hates him so much. They're jealous, because he, rather than either Bush, is Regan's true political heir.

But now I'm totally talking out of my ass.

Amy,

I don't have a regular optometrist. This time Sami called everyone in the phone book for me until she finally found one who could squeeze me in before we had to leave town. I honestly can't remember who I saw, though I could look them up on the reciept.