Note: Though I typically focus on public policy, this post is about politics, which is not the same thing and I try to avoid. However, in light of the election year, there is a valid point that I feel I must make on the principles of rational argument. I hope you will indulge me. 

Back in January 2001, I didn’t have any real problem with the Bush administration.

I mean, I didn’t like him, of course. After all, it was painful to hear him speak, so obtuse and inarticulate. I found it embarrassing to be represented on the world stage by such a tactless and ignorant buffoon. And I couldn’t believe that Americans could be so base as to (almost) elect the far-less-intelligent son of a one-term president whom we had booted out of office not 8 years prior. But all of that is actually just personal and cosmetic. When it came to policy, upon entering office, I was prepared to give President Bush a chance. After all, he had promised to be, in everyone’s understanding, a compassionate conservative, vowing on the campaign trail to focus on a strong military, education, cutting taxes, and aiding minorities. Didn’t sound so bad.

For 10 months, I just sat back and let it happen, and nothing really terrible came up. In fact, aside from a $200 advance on my next tax return (which I had to pay for later), I barely even noticed a change in “leadership.”

But in September, as you know, the proverbial feces impacted the oscillator and the bent of the administration shifted drastically. In the face of a national tragedy, an executive power grab ensued. As a nation and a culture, we’d been cold-cocked. And while we were still reeling from the cheap shot, the administration was charging into war without legislative approval or funding, eviscerating civil liberties in the name of security, illegally spying on Americans, torturing POWs, and suppressing dissent.

And under the fog of a perceived and permanent war against an unknown enemy, they used the country’s unity and resolve to ram through a host of domestic policies that benefitted the corporate benefactors of old who had long-waited for such an opportunity. Oil, coal, and natural gas saw their tall profit forecasts extended well into the next decade. Pharmaceutical companies planned for record profits on the tails of Medicare Part D, with no government power to negotiate prices. Health insurance companies sighed relief knowing that no action on health care reform would be taken on the current watch. Let’s not forget the financial sector’s unified orgasm over prospects of 8 years of deregulation, setting them free to play Russian roulette with our collective financial future for two full terms.

Meanwhile, the issues I cared most about, the things I believe the government should be serving and protecting above all others, were either downplayed, ignored, neglected, or actively attacked for 8 years. The protection and preservation of our land, air, water, and their natural inhabitants, access to quality health care for all classes, diplomacy, human rights, civil liberty, quality education, the separation of church and state, the balance of power in our three branches of government, the idea that we should look forward to inevitable change and the way things will one day be, no matter what we do to stand in its way. All of these were tertiary, if not anathema to the true and simple goals of the administration: continued short-term profits for the world’s most wealthy, revenge for our injury on 9/11 and offenses from long ago, and preserving the political power of the conservative ruling class.

Yes, by 2008 my complaints with the administration were countless, deep-seated, and aggravating. But I want it made clear that in 2001, aside from the President’s incapacity for oratory, I was prepared to make the best of his compassionate conservativism and I even looked forward to his campaign policies on education and minorities.

In short, at the start of his presidency, I gave President Bush the benefit of the doubt. And after September 11th, I did so again, hoping that restraint, diplomacy, and calculated action would govern their response. And while the right would paint it as though progressives and liberals hated Bush from the start (granted, the whole constitutional crisis over the election and a 5-4 Supreme Court appointment of the office was hard to believe), it was not until the power grabs, diplomatic missteps, and offensive domestic policy that the ire started. The vociferous complaints and hatred may have been loud and offensive to the right, but at a minimum they stemmed from the actual policies of the administration and the record of their reckless and abhorrent actions in the name of security.

Throughout the last 3 years, however, I have watched as the right, the Tea Party, birthers, gun advocates, racists, Islamophobes, and general blowhards have ignorantly and belligerently advocated against inaccurate, fictitious, and even outright contrary-to-fact representations of the policies and record of the Obama administration.

So when I came across this segment from Real Time with Bill Maher, I applauded in excitement. Maher artfully crystallizes an argument I have long been struggling to form, pointing out that Republicans and conservatives have created a fictional President, based on lies and misleading statements, that actually does not even resemble the views of the current administration. And while the right’s ire may be comparable in volume and vehemence to that of progressives during the Bush years, our complaints were based on things the president actually did, and not on things that others claimed he “wanted to do.” But of course, Bill’s humor makes it so much more enjoyable to realize, it’s well worth the watch.

Now, I’m no blind nor automatic supporter of the Obama administration. I’ve made my discontent and unsurety known. But at least my reasons for questioning and criticizing the president’s policies are based in fact.

Isn’t there enough substance to run on in order to sway voters to vote Republican, without distorting the policies and positions of President Obama? Or is the Republican platform actually so vapid and disenchanting that only by creating a fictitious “evil” President with nefarious plans, ultimate patience, and subversive tactics can they hope to regain the White House?

‘Tis the latter, methinks.

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