There are conflicting reports about what went down at yesterday’s meeting. Eric Cantor, the chief of the Republican Congressional Ideological Purity Police Force (RCIPPF), exited the meeting and immediately hurried to “divulge” to the American people how his president had scolded him and stormed out. Ostensibly, Cantor has some credibility with regards to “storming out” maneuvers as he has demonstrated a real knack for it himself in previous weeks. But according to him, President Obama lost it, became petulant and disrespectful in a manner unfitting to his office. Democratic participants in this closed-door meeting contradicted Cantor’s account. Nancy Pelosi extolled Resident Obama’s graciousness. The counter-narrative emphasizes that this meeting was called by the President, lasted two and a half hours, and when the Republicans continued to refuse any sort of accommodation and compromise, when they refused to operate according to the necessary standards and processes of creating policy in a republic, Obama closed the meeting. These negotiations are indeed crucial, but they do not represent the sum total of his responsibilities in presiding over this republic. Given that the Republican controlled House of Representatives, under Speaker Boehner’s leadership, seems to consider passage of meaningful legislation on almost any issue a low priority, or at least an unattainable one, (Rachel Maddow continues to demonstrate this in great detail of late), they apparently saw themselves as having no other obligations. As Obama was closing the meeting with remarks that were his prerogative, both because he called the meeting and because…well…because he is the duly elected PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED FREAKING STATES OF AMERICA, Eric Cantor, duly elected to represent a single district in the Commonwealth of Virginia, interrupted our president to ask for the umpteenth time why Obama will not consider a minimal deal that merely extends the crisis that Cantor has created to attempt to manufacture political advantage. Obama cut him off, dressed him down (according to Pelosi with uncommon graciousness) and left the room. Cantor then hurried to complain to the press.
I have been astounded over the past three years at just how disrespectful serving republican politicians have been toward President Obama. They repeatedly deride him, to the press and on the floors of our legislative bodies, as “shameless.” Presidential candidate Michele Bachmann accused the President of threatening the American people regarding Social Security and Medicare payments and the “full faith and credit” of the USA in order to continue his “spending spree,” as if he’s a QVC addict splurging on decorative plates displaying poker playing bloodhounds for the oval office. Bachmann, of course, ignores how her own party has linked budget negotiations to the debt ceiling for the first time in history.
Now, what I would like to know, in all honesty, is whether my fellow Moose believe that Republican leaders are harsher and more disrespectful to this President than Democratic leaders were to George W. Bush. The GOP consistently presents itself as the party that seeks to preserve and conserve decency, patriotism, respect for American history, values, institutions and offices. We know that this rhetoric often proves to be divorced from reality. I know that most of us, including our Democratic elected officials held President Bush as someone a few degrees south of contempt. But did our leaders and advocates treat him with such utter disdain and lack of deference?
Often, we see progressive and democratic institutions and advocates smeared with false equivalencies. For instance, I don’t begrudge FOXNews its right to partisanship. But it’s level and forms of advocacy are so degraded that I do not accept that MSNBC, with its unabashed partisan advocacy, is the mirror image of FOX. Democratic reasonableness and attempts to acknowledge complexity often feed these equivalences, as its advocates display a willingness to look at both sides and to accept some criticism. But Al Franken and Keith Olberman aren’t simply Rush Limbaugh and Glen Beck on the left. Rachel Maddow and Joan Walsh are not the counterparts of Laura Ingraham and Megyn Kelly, and Barabara Ehrenreich is not simply a lefty Ann Coulter.
So I want to know, did our leaders and advocates show such disregard to the office of the Presidency of the United States when George W. Bush was in office? Think carefully. The reflexive answer is easy.