Obama Is Still “The Other”

From the beginning of the Age of Obama conservatives developed and propagated a narrative about him that is all too familiar to us today, which says something sad about the state of the country, beyond our economic troubles.

Barack Hussein Obama is not one of us, goes this powerful, if false, narrative.  He doesn’t share our values, our view of things.  His eyes don’t see what we see. He is a stranger, an alien, a trespasser. This narrative plays out on cable news, on blogs, on talk radio, and I have witnessed its power in local discussions with conservatives. 

Since the birther foolishness now has validity only in Trump-like minds,* there are two basic lies that conservatives use to keep the Obama-as-other narrative alive:

LIE #1: Barack Hussein Obama doesn’t love America This lie has been expressed in many forms, from the in-your-face charge by Dinesh D’Souza (backed up by Newt Gingrich) that Mr. Obama  really does, in fact, hate America, to the only slightly less offensive form by Mitt Romney—spoken as he launched his campaign for Obama’s job:

I believe in that America. I know you believe in that America. It is an America of freedom and opportunity. A nation where innovation and hard work propel the most powerful economy in the world. A land that is secured by the greatest military the world has ever seen, and by friends and allies across the globe.

President Obama sees a different America and has taken us in a different direction.

A few months into office, he travelled around the globe to apologize for America.

Never mind that even before Romney uttered those words in June, Politifact had already given Romney a “Pants on Fire” rating for the same “apologize for America” charge Romney included in his book, No Apology.  Romney, knowing how important to conservatives is the Obama-hates-America meme, doesn’t mind repeating an obvious lie to help whitewash his past sins as a “moderate” Republican.

This first lie turned up again recently—where else?—Fox “News” Channel.  The IQ-killing morning show, Fox and Friends, used a WikiLeaks cable to claim that during his visit to Japan in 2009,  President Obama had planned to apologize for dropping The Bomb on Hiroshima.  The serial piffle pouring from these three stooges—my apologizes to Larry, Curly, and Moe—can only be appreciated by watching them deliver it.  Here ’tis:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Needless to say, the apology offered by Steve Doocy the next day wasn’t an apology, only a “clarification.” In any case, the damage was done—or in the case of keeping alive the Obama-as-other narrative—the job was successful.

LIE #2: Barack Hussein Obama is not a “real” Christian.  This lie, too, is expressed in many forms familiar to us, from the assertion that he is deceiving us and he is not a genuine follower of Jesus (sadly summarized here), to more subtle forms like acknowledging that he may be a “professing” Christian, but he “embraces un-biblical values,” as pastor Robert Jeffress recently said.

Other forms of this lie are manifested in ways like the following, from the mouth of Rush Limbaugh on October 14:

President Obama has deployed troops to another war, in Africa, ladies and gentlemen.  Jacob Tapper, ABC News, is reporting that Obama has sent 100 US troops to Uganda to help combat Lord’s Resistance Army…

Now, up until today, most Americans have never heard of the combat Lord’s Resistance Army.  And here we are at war with them… Lord’s Resistance Army are Christians.  They are fighting the Muslims in Sudan.  And Obama has sent troops, United States troops to remove them from the battlefield, which means kill them…

So that’s a new war, a hundred troops to wipe out Christians in Sudan, Uganda…

Some staffer eventually made Limbaugh aware of the true nature of the LRA, and this is what Limbaugh said afterward:

Is that right? The Lord’s Resistance Army is being accused of really bad stuff? Child kidnapping, torture, murder, that kind of stuff? Well, we just found out about this today. We’re gonna do, of course, our due diligence research on it. But nevertheless we got a hundred troops being sent over there to fight these guys — and they claim to be Christians.

You see? The overriding idea—more important than the fact that the LRA kidnaps, tortures, rapes, and murders—is that Obama is going to war against these people obviously—to Limbaush and his true-believing listeners—because “they claim to be Christians” and Obama sides with the Muslims.

There are no words, publishable on a blog associated with a family newspaper, to describe this kind of stuff. But it sends shivers down my American spine to think that every single day millions upon millions of my fellow citizens willingly surrender their minds to cretinous or crude propagandists on Fox and conservative talk radio.

And the biggest spine-convulsing shiver of them all comes when I remember that I used to be one of them.


* Sunday’s Parade magazine article on faltering Rick Perry featured this exchange:

Governor, do you believe that President Barack Obama was born in the United States?
I have no reason to think otherwise.

That’s not a definitive, “Yes, I believe he”—
Well, I don’t have a definitive answer, because he’s never seen my birth certificate.

But you’ve seen his.
I don’t know. Have I?

You don’t believe what’s been released?
I don’t know. I had dinner with Donald Trump the other night.

That came up.

And he said?
He doesn’t think it’s real.

And you said?
I don’t have any idea. It doesn’t matter. He’s the President of the United States. He’s elected. It’s a distractive issue.



  1. Speaking of Rush Limbaugh, as I was lying in my netherworld of insomnia last night and tuning in to KZRG on the hour of 2:00 a.m. for the latest news, to see if the satellite had bonked anyone yet or whatever, I was subjected to on of their incessant and apparently never-changing intro’s from Rush, something like this: I don’t know how any realman can be a liberal, a liberal isn’t a real man, a liberal is a head-fake. Wow. With logic like that, how can there be any of those despicable creatures left? (Actually, they are pretty scarce around these parts.) I must have been hearing this recording now for at least half a year. Joseph Goebbels was right: repetition is key.

    Hmm. I wondered if I’m a liberal? I have been known to feel sorry for people at times. Just today I encountered a friend of mine who works at a fast-food place – we go there regularly on weekends and we’ve known him for more than a year. His jaw was swollen and so I asked him about it. He (a young guy, about 20 or so) said one of molars was infected. When I urged him to get to the dentist right away, he said he was saving up for it, but hadn’t gotten enough to pay for a visit yet. So, I urged him to get to the Community Clinic in Joplin. So now you know – I just might be one of those bleeding-heart liberals. A real man would have told him to man-up and tough it out, I’m sure. Just another leech on society. (Him, not me for God’s sake!)

    Tomorrow, first thing, I’m getting my testosterone checked.


    • Jim,

      Healthy testosterone levels or not, you make a good point about a certain kind of liberal bashing, way beyond the policy differences conservatives have with liberals. Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter and those kinds of folks have made being a liberal culturally problematic in certain parts of the country, like, say, ours.

      I don’t mind at all getting attacked for any proposals I support, all of which are fair game and admit to some legitimate arguments against them. But I won’t countenance people who rather than challenge one’s ideas, want to challenge one’s manhood or, more often, one’s intelligence.

      Your story about the man with the infected molar is sad, no? Multiply that story by a gazillion and it takes the breath away contemplating all the suffering, big and small, that goes on in the world. Is it too much to believe that mankind, on some fine and future day, will find a way to alleviate the kind of suffering that technology and access to it could solve in fifteen minutes?

      With my heart bleeding,



  2. Duane,

    Whenever I think of Rush — which isn’t often — I recall that he hired a color guard for his fourth wedding. I don’t know if they marched in front of the flower girls or stood in patriotic attention next to the punch bowl.

    It seems Rush’s “truth detecting” gland is throbbing in discomposure about all the hippies protesting Wall Street.



    • McNight John,

      Love that article. It’s also refreshing—in an odd sort of way—to see the F word used so, well, so effectively, in the context of a truly F’d up character like Limbaugh.

      There is something to the power of the “99%” idea. And I have watched conservatives, but only the smart ones, gingerly acknowledge that power.



  3. Each summary of your two points is outstanding. I have a good friend who continues to claim “the president is a Muslim.” Keep in mind that he “hates Muslims” to boot.

    Meanwhile, I keep wondering if/when i’ll see the return of the normal Republican.


    • Afrankangle,

      I’m afraid the return of “normal” Republicans is a ways off. There are some signs that the smarter conservatives in the House are distancing themselves from the extremists, but their numbers are not large and their mouths are not nearly big enough to shout down the zealots.

      My own view is that it will take another generation or so to rid the GOP (and the country) of the kind of dominance by unreasonable right-wingers that we have seen over, really, the last 30 years or so (even though Ronald Reagan seems like a moderate compared to what we see today, doesn’t he?).

      Demographics, as I have argued several times, will take care of that problem, but it will take some time. In the interim, we just have to hope that they don’t do much more damage to the country, beyond what we are suffering now.



  4. King Beauregard

     /  October 23, 2011

    I hate to think the worst of people, but more and more I’m seeing undistilled primate behavior in our national discourse. Look at any tribe of apes / chimpanzees / whatever and you’ll see two key social directives: protect your tribe, and hate other tribes. That is about all I’m seeing in the GOP / red state America / Fox News and its followers. As point of irony #1, these are also the people least likely to acknowledge that mankind shares ancestry with apes, and so are the least likely to recognize a similar model of behavior in the animal kingdom.

    I won’t claim that liberals are all wonderful fantastic people because there are some rotten people in that camp too, but liberals generally can’t be faulted for hating the other guy simply for being different. Those ape vs. ape instincts apparently aren’t as pronounced in liberals; in fact they probably wouldn’t be liberals if their main gut reaction were to hate or distrust outsiders just for being outsiders. But as point of irony #2, it also means liberals are unlikely to even understand where conservatives are coming from. That’s why you’ll have the spectacle of liberals discussing policy and fact-checking speeches, and wondering why they’re not winning Republican voters over with sound public policy that benefits a multitude of demographics. Liberals aren’t protecting the tribe from outsiders, in fact they’re trying to dilute the tribe’s ancestral power.


    • King Beauregard

       /  October 23, 2011

      By the way, Duane, I would certainly welcome your thoughts on this. You’ve looked at the matter from both sides, I imagine you have some opinions.

      I’ll also toss out one more thought I am kicking around: the American right wing “tribe” is defined not by familial relationship or geographical location, but by shared beliefs. As such, disagreement is tantamount to rejecting the tribe, and endorsing the tribe’s beliefs is how one serves the tribe.


    • Randy

       /  October 23, 2011

      If conservatives are so full of hate, why is it always at liberal gatherings where all the hate signs and hate speech is spouted? I never saw or heard anything remotely hateful at Tea Party gatherings, and I never hear any of my many conservative friends talking hatefully. I never, or very rarely see hate comments following articles on CNN.com and Reuters.com from conservatives, however liberals constantly leave hate filled (and vulgar) comments directed at Christians, conservatives, Republicans. Example, a Christian might say “I think it is wrong to act on homosexual impulses” and a liberal will reply “you stupid racist hate mongering war lover, the world would be better without you….” stuff like that. Read the comments after the articles your self. You’ll see who the hate filled people are.


      • King Beauregard

         /  October 24, 2011

        My point was “liberals generally can’t be faulted for hating the other guy SIMPLY FOR BEING DIFFERENT”. There are some points of view and some people that earn contempt. Your hypothetical good-hearted Christian who is merely expressing an opinion is marching in step with national movements trying to grant people fewer rights based on sexual orientation, and while that may be perfectly acceptable in your book, it is not in mine. I am not moved by your hypothetical good-hearted Christian’s choice of polite words; the idea underlying them is anything but polite.

        So how’s that Tree of Liberty doing, is it still in need of watering?


    • King Beau,

      I love that first point about the irony of the non-descent crowd acting like “undistilled primates.” My friend and fellow blogger Jim Wheeler often discusses politics in the context of tribal loyalties, and, as you (and Jim) suggest, it is a problem for all of us at times.

      I want to also say that liberals, while certainly less tribalistic than conservatives (just look at the typical Democratic gathering), do have the associated problem you suggest: liberals often don’t understand what motivates conservatives.

      In my experience, you are correct about the cohesiveness of the ultra-conservative tribe. Most of it (although there are some pockets of either racism or racial condescension) is based on “shared beliefs.” And many of those shared political beliefs are related to religious beliefs, almost all of those related to a literalistic interpretation of “infallible” Scripture.

      That is where liberals, in my experience, fail to understand the conservative mind. For the kind of conservatives I am describing (as you know, I used to be one of them), religious doctrines are held with a kind of mental death grip, and letting go is just not conceivable to most of them. And to find like-minded folks is part of how holding on to those religious beliefs is maintained. That’s what church attendance is about, for the most part.

      Since Jerry Falwell started the whole business of mixing evangelical and fundamentalist religious beliefs with in-your-face political conservatism in 1979 (William F. Buckley had married conservative Catholicism and political conservatism in the 1950s), the thing has never really subsided. And the amalgam of the two presents particular problems for liberals because what goes with the marriage is a demand, as you say, that one must remain completely faithful to the shared-belief relationship or risk coming home and finding your belongings in the front yard (that actually happened to George Will, by the way).

      Thus, we have the problem Herman Cain is having with the so-called pro-life community or the problems Rick Perry had over the vaccination issue (and to some extent the immigration issue). Liberals and Democrats are used to some dissension among their ranks due to their generally undogmatic reflexes (although from time to time we do get a little testy when a Democrat holds too many dissenting opinions, like, say, Ben Nelson from Nebraska).

      Finally, I want to remark briefly on this statement you made:

      Liberals aren’t protecting the tribe from outsiders, in fact they’re trying to dilute the tribe’s ancestral power.

      Yes! That’s the point exactly. As a conservative, I was essentially taught to distrust “democracy.” Just read nearly any conservative intellectual and you will find either prominently argued or subtly taken for granted that the masses are not to be trusted with real power. It must be offset in some way or the other. And one great accomplishment of liberalism has been to enhance the power of normally disenfranchised citizens, and, as you put it, “dilute the tribe’s ancestral power.”

      Excellent stuff, your majesty.



      • @ King B & Duane,

        An excellent discussion and cogent point about the disparate tribal natures of the two parties. I can only add, ironically, “amen”.


  5. Randy

     /  October 23, 2011

    No doubt that Rush was wrong about the LRA – obvious gross ignorance on that one. And, he really should not be speaking about something like that if he does not know what he is talking about. As far as the “apology tour.” I don’t think you know what you are talking about Duane. It does not refer to apologizing to Japan, it refers to the tour Obama made throughout Europe early in his presidency when he repeatedly apologized for America’s “arrogance” and many past mistakes.

    I see you are not talking much about Steve Job’s comments on how Obama’s policies are hurting America…



    • First, I’m glad we agree that Rush “should not be speaking about something like that if he does not know what he is talking about.” But that would make for about three hours of silence each day, Randy.

      Second, I’m not sure you read my post or only skimmed it. I never claimed that Romney made any remarks about apologizing to Japan. I clearly made the point that what Romney did in June (and in his book) was part of the same cloth from which Fox and Friends cut its segment on the alleged apology to Japan.

      Third, if you will follow the Politifact link, you will see that Obama did not apologize for America anywhere at any time. He offered some very brief parallel criticisms of American policy and European or Arab reactions, but nothing like an apology.

      George Bush, however, did apologize. Here’s a headline from Fox “News” from May 7, 2004:

      Bush Apologizes for Iraqi Prisoner Abuse


      As for Steve Jobs criticism of Obama, I suppose if he had said he loved the President you would be praising him? What we do know of Steve Jobs, besides he was a not-so-good manager and not a friendly person to work for, is that he had a vivid imagination, which may have helped him oversee the development of fantastic technological marvels, but also helped him to imagine bogeymen bedeviling entrepreneurs.

      It’s too bad nobody ask him if he even considered for a second what government tax or regulatory policy was when he was in that garage watching Steve Wozniak build that computer.

      But I suspect that even you know the answer to that one, though.



  6. @ All,

    IMO, the principal cause of the widened gulf between the parties is gerrymandering of electoral districts all across the country. It is a decades-long trend that has now produced areas that appear to be permanently polarized. I know it’s true in mine – Democrats here are permanent pariahs.

    Talk radio and biased TV commentary have to be a big part of it too, a radical change from the old days when news was consciously streamed in some sort of balance by journalists in newspapers. Welcome to our Brave New World.


  7. Jim,
    Ohio is currently a mess regarding recent redistricting. Interesting editorial in Sunday’s Cincinnati Enquirer.


  8. @ all,

    In support of Jim’s point. Ohio has a current mess centering on redistricting. Here’s an interesting editorial in yesterday’s Cincinnati Enquirer.


  9. Duane: You beat me to the punch about Limbaugh not having anything left for his program.

    Appreciate yours and KingB’s nailing down the tribal affiliation. Very accurate and helpful to remember.

    Around here the tribe is the school sports supporters.



    • Jane,

      If you’ve ever been to Webb City or been around Webb City folks, you would know that the tribal nature of Webb City sports, particularly football, is the archetype of which you speak.



  10. Great post, Duane. To a lot of people, he will always be “The Other.”


  11. Talk about irony.
    We’ve already had a Republican president who was Unitarian.
    By coincidence, I posted this recently:
    He was our American hero Teddy Roosevelt’s pick.


    • Tracy,

      I either forgot or never knew that Taft was a unitarian. That makes him the last non-Christian in the White House, I think.



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