The Era of Confronting Obama at Public Events

So here we have "former-Bush official Brad Blakeman" being quoted by the media as attacking Tea Party stalwart Ryan Rhodes over Rhodes's confrontation with Obama.  It seems that every time we see the term "former Bush," "former Reagan," and for all I know "former Coolidge" official, it involves some venerable GOP figure calling airstrikes in on his or her own unit.  I guess it's slow down at the shuffleboard court.

It's possible to read all sorts of things into this, none of them good.  About the gentlest would be that Blakeman is missing the point.  Ryan is the farthest thing in the world from a political vagabond.  As the founder of the Iowa Tea Party, he is a crucial figure in one of the most important political movements of the past half-century.  He confronted Obama not because voices told him to or to get his picture in the paper, but to issue a rebuke, a necessary rebuke.  Obama had it coming for all sorts of reasons above and beyond the issue at hand.  (Joe Biden's charming reference to the Tea Parties as "terrorists," an incident that seems to have evaded Blakeman's attention.)  In a just world, he'd be hearing the same thing at every whistle-stop, fundraiser, campaign speech, and vacation cookout from now until Krugman's aggressive aliens arrive from Tau Ceti.  Ryan is to be applauded for doing something few would dare attempt, and bringing it off with considerable panache.

Blakeman is, of course, making the argument that we should "respect the office, and not the man."  A perfectly legitimate stance, in normal times and dealing with normal politicians.  But since we are dealing with neither, it has been reduced to something recited by rote.  The times being what they are, extraordinary measures are called for.  If a man were to force his way into a schoolroom and begin flinging children out the window, we would be appalled -- unless that man was aware that the school was ablaze and there was no other way out of the building.

Blakeman overlooks the simple truth that you can respect the office only as much as the incumbent does.  If the officeholder violates public trust, which can occur in any number of ways, from leaping on interns to appointing cronies to extralegal positions, the question of respect as such becomes moot.  Some behavior cannot and should not be tolerated.  If it were Caligula and Cesare Borgia in the Oval Office, I'm quite sure that Blakeman would not call for abject respect for either.  Obama, to be just, is comparable to neither of them in iniquity, but the principle holds.  You may call it an exaggeration for effect, the literary version of Ryan's action.

The third point is that America's liberals drew first blood and now have to take whatever comes.  It has been generations since a Democrat or liberal or leftist has behaved in the political arena according to any tradition of decency, honor, or gentility.  Barry Goldwater was an honest man and a politician of the highest standards.  If you were to look for his equal today, in either house on either side of the aisle, you would come up with no one.  And yet, when he ran for president in 1964, the entire liberal establishment cut loose with an unmatched campaign of slander.  Goldwater was a Nazi, an extremist, a paranoid schizophrenic, a maniac out to trigger a nuclear war.  And it wasn't fringe publications making these accusations -- it was the New York Times and the Big Three broadcast networks.  The men involved in that campaign -- including the great American Voice of Reason, Bill Moyers -- went on to lengthy, lucrative, and influential careers.  Not a single one ever apologized; not a single one ever explained himself; not a single one was even confronted over his role.

The liberals have never backed off.  To this day, children in America's schools are taught that the deranged Ronald Reagan tried to start WWIII and was halted only by the actions of the heroic Mikhail Gorbachev.  (You doubt this?  Ask your kids.)  George W. Bush was forced to fight an international war while the loyal opposition derided him as a Nazi, a subnormal, a mass murderer, and we could go for several pages.  One novel, an award-winning film, and at least two plays calling for his assassination were written, produced, and released.  Anyone suggesting the same as regards Barack Obama would wind up (at the very least) explaining himself in detail and at length to large men in dark suits, and possibly worse.  In our day the two political doctrines have been carefully divided and separated according to very simple criteria: with liberal Democrats every last comma of the rules of etiquette must be followed with punctilio.  With the GOP, anything goes. 

Which brings us to the last two years, in which the final shreds of civilized behavior were trampled in the left's eagerness to get at the enemy.  A mother of a disabled child was attacked nationwide, in all major media outlets, for giving birth to and raising that child.  Forget about everything else Sarah Palin has endured -- the attacks on her other children, the petty legal hassles, the rumors about her marriage, the fake photos, the betrayals from her own side, and so on.  Concentrate on that one element.  When I was young, anyone who degraded a woman in such circumstances would have been fired, possibly physically beaten, blacklisted from his industry, and forced out of town, or even out of the country, in order to earn even the lowest type of living.  Today they get booked on The View.  That's how far we've fallen -- disabled kids, and their mothers, are fair game in the millennial United States.

And now we're hearing much the same about Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann.  I'm not sure how this will work out.  Perry shoots his own coyotes when called upon, and Bachmann...well, she has that glint in her eye, the one that reads much the same as a sign saying, "DANGER - UNEXPLODED BOMB."  You learn not to antagonize girls of a certain type as early as high school.  Can we assume that America's liberals went to high school?

The point is that it was the liberals who tore up the rule book, flouted tradition, and violated every established tenet of behavior.  When you act this way, you open a door, and you have to accept whatever comes through that door.  The rules and traditions that might have protected you are no longer around to be appealed to.

Obama will be lucky if he is not faced with such a confrontation every week from now until the 2012 election.  He will receive much more and much worse in the way of invective and insult before then.  And he will have earned it.

Blakeman is not wrong in calling for a higher level of behavior.  But he is mistaken in speaking as if such a world actually exists, as if life in the millennial United States consists of men doffing their panamas every time they pass a woman, that each street corner is equipped with an Eagle Scout awaiting random old ladies, and that politicians shaking hands and calling each "old boy" really means something.  This is not the case, and to pretend otherwise, in an environment as debased and toxic as the one in which we live, is to accept humiliation and defeat.  Perhaps we may see a rebirth of politesse and manners at some point to come.  Nothing is impossible, and the social world often shifts between extremes.  But I can tell you this: it will never happen if this country's liberals continue getting their way.

J.R. Dunn is consulting editor of American Thinker and the author of Death by Liberalism.