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Sherman Yellen Headshot

The Dither Mongers

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Google the word "dithering" together with the name Obama and out comes Charles Krauthammer calling him a ditherer over foreign policy, followed by Dick Cheney who joins together with The Washington Times, the Telegraph in the UK, Ann Coulter, and other right wing voices of Murdochian doom to name our President Ditherer in Chief. They are all accusing him of an indecisiveness that they claim was never shown by his predecessor George W. Bush the "Decider in Chief." Yes, that's the Dick Cheney who helped to bring us that splendid Iraq war and never dithered for a moment as many hundreds of thousands lost their lives and their minds in that futile, feckless struggle. If we are to take dithering as dawdling, ah, if only Cheney and President Bush had a moment of dawdling (the closest they could come to rational action) before they bombed Iraq for weapons of mass destruction that weren't there, and put a vast population and our troops in harm's way. Those who chose to bomb thousands of children in Iraq are most offended by the gassing of the innocents in Syria. When applied to President Obama dithering is clearly meant not as civil commentary but as an insult to his courage and to his manhood, and some left wingers such as Maureen Dowd, who rejoices in calling the president "Barry" to bring him down to High School level, join in the parade of dither-mongering. I think it goes beyond this and spills over into racial name-calling.

Like it or not the use of dithering in relation to this president is well concealed hate speech. Dithering is something that the black comedian Stepin Fetchit would do in those old B-movies, part of the racist minstrel show farce that disgraced early comedy. What Butterfly McQueen did in Gone with the Wind could best be described as dithering -- a house slave's response to a world that continued to make demands upon her without offering her any rewards. We can just hear Scarlett's Aunt Pitti-Patt saying "Don't you dither there girl. Come at once!" How about replacing that loaded and denigrating word with "deliberating" when it comes to this president? Dithering is a word that carries with it that racist stereotype that is used either deliberately or inadvertently to degrade an African-American president. I particularly resent it when it is used to describe this president's economic policies -- given the fact that he has spent seven years attempting to rescue the economy from the Bush years with its giveaways to K street lobbyists and unpaid for wars. Yes, we are nowhere near where we could be in this recovery but we can thank a Republican Congress for opposing all efforts to create a jobs program, an educational program, a public works program to fix our aging infrastructure. If I have a quarrel with this president it is in his failure to use his bully pulpit to call out those scoundrels who are trying to destroy his presidency at any cost -- even if it stalls the economy and destroys innocent lives.

Now, "dithering" is the favored word used to degrade the president because he has not rushed us into the Civil War in Syria where the choice is between the dictator Assad and the rebels of al-Qaeda and their allies. And the Obama haters demand that our president be a man of action no matter what that action is -- just do it and damn the consequences! Odd, but history shows that a president like Jimmy Carter left a better legacy to our world by standing back and exploring all peaceful options rather than sending the Marines to their death as did Ronald Reagan. This does not mean that there is no time for action, no time when me must use our military, but that time must come when every other avenue of problem resolution has been explored.

We must be through with hanging up banners of "Mission Accomplished" before we understand the very nature of what our mission is. And while we are at it, let us use language that shows respect for the man who is our president, no matter how we may feel about the decisions he makes, or those he does not.