THE BLOG

The Demonization of Barack Obama

03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

On November 22, 1963, as a fateful motorcade headed into downtown Dallas, leaflets were circulated throughout the city featuring profiles of President John F. Kennedy and headlined, "Wanted for Treason." On the day JFK was assassinated, there were factions from within the extreme right wing of the American political spectrum expressing the most violent hatred for President Kennedy, accusing him of being soft on communism, a betrayer of anti-Castro Cubans and an ultra-liberal supporter of civil rights for African-Americans. Before the bullets ricocheted in Dealey Plaza on that violent day, they were preceded by words of violence. It is that historical context that connects directly with the unprecedented verbal venom being projected at the 44th President of the United States.

Even before the historic election that placed Barack Obama in the White House, crowds at several of John McCain's rallies openly called for Barack Obama to be "killed." Since Obama's inauguration, the rhetoric has far from dissipated. If anything, the vitriolic contempt stemming from right wing extremists in America has grown more strident. There are the "birthers," who are convinced that Barack Obama is not a native-born American citizen, and therefore believe his presidency is inherently illegitimate. Far more ominously, there are those who are not content with just denouncing the "foreign occupier," as some extremists refer to Obama; at rallies and on talk radio, a noisy contingent has talked about Obama representing tyranny, and have engaged in language that approaches the level of incitement towards violence.

President Barack Obama is not above criticism, as is the case with any politician. However, those who are pouring out hate and contempt towards Barack Obama, on a scale that approaches irrationality, actually drown out and delegitimize those who have genuine, thoughtful criticism of the policies of the Obama administration, especially with regards to the economic crisis and America's exploding national debt and rampaging deficits. While wrapping their vituperation in the American flag, these extremists masquerading as patriots are actually damaging the heart and soul of the conservative movement in the United States, while stoking the flames of violence within America that can prove more destructive to the national interest than the threat posed by any external foe.

While listening to the joyous celebrations that erupted among many forums connected with the Republican Party when Chicago lost its bid to host the 2016 Olympic games, despite the personal intervention of President Obama, I had a feeling of déjà vu. Imagine, supporters of a U.S. political party that claims to be patriotic erupting in paroxysms of ecstasy over the defeat of an American Olympic bid, only because this somehow denigrates Obama. Where have I seen this before?

In France, just before World War II. For a brief period, a left-wing coalition government came to power in France, and for the first time a French Jew, Leon Blum, was that nation's Premier. The right wing went ballistic. Under no circumstances would they cooperate with Blum and his government. When Blum's coalition, known as the Popular Front, reached out to conservative circles in France, they were rebuffed at every opportunity. Extremists attacked the Jewish Premier with violent verbosity, even when Leon Blum went against his own party's agenda, and actually supported conservative policies on foreign affairs and military expenditures. The right wing in France chanted in response, "better Adolf Hitler than Leon Blum." In 1940, thanks in large part to the disunity and political polarization they had sowed, they got their wish, when the nation they claimed to love collapsed in a humiliating defeat.

Before the anti-Obama pathology that has gripped America's right wing has gone past the point of no return, are there any conservatives of conscience and civic courage willing to speak out? If not, their collective silence may prove more destructive to the United States than any plot being hatched by Al-Qaeda.