Paul R. Lehman, Criticism of Obama based in bigotry

September 4, 2010 at 8:29 pm | Posted in American Bigotry, Race in America | 3 Comments
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Although many reasons are given by the Republicans and the right for casting aspersions and criticism at President Obama, the most obvious reason is his ethnicity. Two noted journalists, E. J. Dionne, Jr. of The Washington Post, and Paul Krugman, of The New York Times, wrote in recent articles that the lack of leadership from the Republicans and the right in speaking out against the negative and often less than accurate criticism against President Obama could spell serious trouble for the country. Although previous presidents were the recipients of criticism, none have had to deal with the direct personal and character attacks lodged at Obama. Two charges assigned to Obama are troubling to say the least. One claim is that he is anti-American, the other is that he is Muslim, both of which are untrue. Under some circumstances some might consider these claims political, but when we evaluate their nature, the focus is more on his ethnicity. The basis of the claims is steeped in bigotry.

                In noting his concerns about the attacks on Obama, Krugman observes that “Mr. Obama’s election would have enraged those people if he were white. Of course, the fact that he isn’t and has an alien-sounding name, adds to the rage.” These attacks are not restricted to a narrow segment of society. Krugman continues by adding that “By the way, I’m not talking about the rage of the excluded and the dispossessed: Tea Partiers are relatively affluent, and nobody is angrier these days than the very rich.” He goes on to mention a number of the rich– Steve Schwarzman, and the Koch brothers. So, the attacks are serious enough to have the rich and powerful participate. Why is all this happening to Obama?

Rush Limbaugh refers to President Obama as “Imam Hussein Obama,” and had called him “the best anti-American president we’ve ever had.”To reasonable people these references might appear to be the ravings of an entertainer wanting to get attention in an effort to boost ratings. However, Limbaugh has made it clear from the day of Obama’s election that he wants him to fail. So, any rhetoric by Limbaugh focusing on Obama’s politics is simply a cover for his bigotry. And because he is such a popular spokesperson for the right, thousands of people believe what he says.

Both Krugman and Dionne note that the increase in the extreme language by the GOP and the right has gone unchecked by the so-called responsible Republicans. Dionne notes that “the rise of an angry, irrational extremism—the sort that says Obama is a Muslim socialist who wasn’t born in the United States—that was not part of Ronald Reagan’s buoyant conservative creed. Do Republican politicians believe in the elaborate conspiracy being spun by Glen Beck and parts of the Tea Party?” He adds, “If not, why won’t they say so?” The reason for not stepping up and renouncing the hateful language is because of fear from the rest of the group. No one wants to be the one who points out the ignorance and stupidity of the group.

When we examine some of the claims against Obama, we must admit that they are without merit. For example, if he were anti-American why would his actions display the opposite effects? What specifically has he done that can be characterized as anti-American? The people who work with and around him must all be under some spell or other not to recognize his anti-American behavior—or maybe those actions do not exist. One thing is certain on which both Dionne and Krugman agree, and that is Obama, his administration and party need to get busy and try to deflate the extremist language before it becomes uncontrollable. Too many people are starting to believe the irrational language of Limbaugh and Beck.

To say that these attacks on Obama are based in politics and not on his character would be incorrect. Constructive criticism is generally welcomed because it provides help in working towards the objective. Negative criticism and name calling serves no useful purpose. So, when the Obama critics offer constructive criticism, they given him something to build on, but when the criticism is negative, it simple add unnecessary heat to the atmosphere. If the GOP wants to attack Obama as the Democratic President regarding some political concern, then that fair game. However, the attacks have not been about his policies, but attempts in trying to label him as Muslin, socialists, anti-American, alien; none of which are true. The attacks are focused on Obama, the African American because therein lies the threat of loss. When we give some thought to the nature of the attacks, we note that had Obama not been African American the attacks would reflect more on policies rather than negative name-calling and labels. That, however, is not the case.

We can all hope that the GOP and especially the right will come to understand that the Civil War and Reconstruction are over, that we are the United States. President Obama is president of all the people regardless of how they might regard him. Rather than trying to help Limbaugh, Beck, the GOP, and the extreme right cause Obama to fail, which also means the country fails, why not try to add some constructive criticism to the mix and see what that produces. For certain the negative criticism will yield no good fruit. Dionne and Krugman are correct in speaking out about the destructive possibilities of the extremely negative comments of the GOP and the need for Obama to address the problem. After all, being patriotic is grounded in taking positive actions that help to build towards a better and brighter future. When the actions taken are meant to do harm or destroy our country that we call anti-American.


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  1. Paul Krugman always gets my attention. He is usually right, and he has a valid point about bigotry being a basis for many attacks on President Obama. I remember, however, how personal were some of the attacks on President Clinton. Having a Democrat in the White House is almost more than the opposition can endure regardless of who the person is.

  2. One of my favorite movies is from the John Grisham book “A Time to Kill” which was about the murder trial of the father of a nine year old African American child who had been brutally raped by a group European Americans. The father had killed the rapist however the trial was being held in the deep south during a time when such events where common and the results of such a trial a foregone conclusion. The key scene was the brilliant final argument of the defense attorney. His argument graphically depicted moment by moment the brutality of the attack on the young child. How she was repeatedly beaten and raped, spit and urinated on, hung from a tree by her neck, and when the limb from the tree gave way, thrown from a bridge and left for dead at the bottom of a riverbank. The description certainly had the attention of the all European American jury. But what put them over the edge were his final words. .. “Now imagine if you will that the child enduring this horror is white.”

    I also remember what the Republicans put President Clinton through. Now imagine if you will that the President enduring these attacks is African American.

  3. The morning after the election of President Obama and every morning thereafter Limbaugh, Beck, the GOP, Tea Party, and all European Americans have had to face their fictional self-reality. My ‘white-birth-right’ has been invalidated. This presidency has diminished their illusive license of entitlement. Superiority, all-powerful, all-important, all-wise are no longer being served as the entree on the menu at the feast of human success. Desserts of bigotry, arrogance and egotism are no longer justifiable. When the face in the mirror is simply a human being, the self-esteem suffers…the fantasy of superiority has ended Facing the ‘real-self’ is frightening. The origin of all the negative language and propaganda is really generated by feelings of personal inferiority and insecurity. The bottom line is that President Obama has stolen their fantasy of superior human value. They have determined that they must unite and fight by any means possible to recapture the (lie) fantasy.

    Thank you for your insightful reviews!

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