Can Americans Respect a President They Don’t Like?

BDS: Bush Derangement Syndrome. The increasingly serious diagnosis of people who blame President George W. Bush for all manner of disappointments. The venomous hatred of President Bush goes all the way back to his Inauguration, and has included such notable milestones as a movie celebrating his possible assassination. Before Bush, President Clinton experienced a similarly odious treatment, accused of everything from complicity in rape and murder to deliberate treason against America. For at least half a generation, the President of the United States has been smeared by a substantial portion of the population, regardless of political affiliation or his actual conduct. To some degree, this is almost an American tradition – Abraham Lincoln was denounced in newspaper editorials as a buffoon and as a stupid man who did not understand the office he held. Grover Cleveland was the target of smear campaigns by corrupt politicians whose plans he opposed. Teddy Roosevelt was commonly regarded as incompetent and reckless, as was Andrew Jackson by his enemies (although Jackson’s enemies were a bit more anonymous, since Jackson held a formidable reputation as an accomplished duelist). Even so, the modern disparagement of the President seems well out of balance and fueled by a most unhealthy and irrational spite.

And this coming election may promise no better climate. Democrats have to choose between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, with indications that supporters of the losing candidate may find it difficult to support the party nominee. The Republicans also face a schism, as John McCain’s vindictive and foolish rejection of Conservative Republicans (even as he pretends to be a Conservative himself) is increasingly likely to bring about their rejection of McCain in the Fall. All of the three significant candidates for President, therefore, have alienated and antagonized significant portions of the populace, generating sizable negatives. It would seem that a most unlikeable President is about to take office. What then?

Speaking for myself, I never liked President Clinton, but he was not wholly incompetent. Faint praise I admit, but what I mean is that even where I disagreed with his decisions and policies, I never lost sight of the context, nor took to blaming him for obscene lies. I will not grace them here with specific mention, but many readers will recall the sorts of things which, on no evidence, President Clinton was accused. And as with Bush, more than a few people claimed Clinton was the worst of all the Presidents, forgetting Woodrow Wilson’s belief that the Constitution should be replaced, Andrew Johnson’s drunken binges, James Buchanan doing nothing to prevent the Civil War, or James Madison’s invasion of Canada. Clinton’s enemies ignored his successes, just as Bush’s do now. As much as I dislike any of the three main contenders to become the next President, I still make the effort to note their ability and skills, and to respect the office, and in time, hopefully the President. It is important to the Nation that we all make that effort.

Orphan Of The World
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