Obama derangement and Bush hatred

The personal element in Bush derangement was admittedly somewhat different, because the liberal caricature of Bush (mostly) required that he be a total dunce, a stooge, a puppet, rather than an evil genius with a true long-term plan — so the paranoia was a little more about what he represented rather than just about the man himself. Or alternatively, it was about the people manipulating him, which of course extended beyond specifically religious figures (from Richard John Neuhaus and various dispensationalists to the shade of R.J. Rushdoony) to include the neoconservatives in all their varied guises (Cheneyite, Likudnik, etc.), plus oil companies and defense contractors and even the late great Milton Friedman.

But then just as the various strands of Obama paranoia tend to twine together — he’s an anti-colonialist America-hater because of his father and because that’s what all his left-wing ivory tower radical pals think; he supports the Muslim brotherhood because he’s a relativizing academic multiculturalist and because of his own Muslim roots — so were the different strands of Bush derangement often reknit. For instance, the fact of evangelical support for Israel meant that he could be both a proto-theocrat trying to hasten the apocalypse and a tool of Jewish neoconservatives and Israeli nationalists: A single puppet, but with many fingers on the strings.

Then the other point I’d make, contra Klein, about the two paranoias’ similarity, is that while Bush hatred certainly was heavily influenced and intensified by a genuine policy issue (Iraq) and the generally extraordinary post-9/11 atmosphere, Obama paranoia has hardly flourished in a policy vacuum or an era of tranquillity. Instead, it emerged following the worst global financial crisis since the Great Depression, and amid a sweeping policy response: The massive bailout of Wall Street, the stimulus large enough to be dubbed a new New Deal, the bailouts of the auto industry, and then a rush of liberal legislation that fell short of Obama’s ultimate goals but still represented the hardest shove to the left we’ve seen in public policy in two generations. The absolute peak of paranoia about the current president — the heyday of Glenn Beck and his blackboard, the moment when Obama derangement washed into mainstream G.O.P. politics — followed those bailouts and that stimulus, coincided with debates over health care, financial regulation, cap and trade, and happened as both the deficit and the unemployment rate climbed to rates unseen in decades. So it was not a calm period, not a low-stakes moment, and while of course it was unreasonable to hold Obama responsible for a crisis he inherited, right-wingers weren’t wrong to see him moving to exploit the opportunities it afforded him; it wasn’t a crisis he created, but (as we were told) he didn’t intend to let it go to waste.