Ben Stein: 'Obama is the most racist president.' Why is Obama the punching bag du jour?(Read article summary)
Conservative Ben Stein launched a verbal salvo against President Obama. But he's not alone. Liberals, including Matt Damon, Hillary Clinton, and Cornell West, are now criticizing Obama. Why now?
(AP Photo/The News-Times, Tyler Sizemore, Pool)
He may be black, but President Obama is the most racist president in American history.
"What the White House is trying to do is racialize all politics and they're especially trying to tell the Africa-American voter that the GOP is against letting them have a chance at a good life in this economy, and that’s just a complete lie,” he said Sunday on Fox’s America’s News HQ. "I watch with fascination — with incredible fascination — all the stories about how the Democratic politicians,” he continued, “especially Hillary [Clinton], are trying to whip up the African-American vote and say, ‘Oh, the Republicans have policies against black people in terms of the economy.’ But there are no such policies.”
“It’s all a way to racialize voting in this country," he continued. "This president is the most racist president there has ever been in America. He is purposely trying to use race to divide Americans.”
However dubious his claims, Stein's outburst is just the latest example of public figures speaking out – liberals and conservatives – against Obama.
The president's critics now range from ex-cabinet officials, such as Hillary Clinton and Leon Panetta, to liberals like Jimmy Carter, Matt Damon, and Cornell West. They are all throwing Obama under the bus.
Last year, Mr. Damon told BET in a much-publicized interview, "Obama, you broke up with me," slamming the President for his policy on drone strikes and NSA spying. On Monday, less than 24 ahead of the midterms, the story circulated online again.
Since then, Mrs. Clinton andMr. Panetta, along with former Defense Secretary Robert Gates and former Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, have published books distancing themselves from Obama and criticizing his policies, with Clinton charging Obama's "failure" to help Syrian rebels ultimately led to the rise of the Islamic State militancy. Even former President Carter has publicly denounced Obama for hesitating before beginning airstrikes on the Islamic State, and in his newest book, "Black Prophetic Fire," Cornell West calls the Obama presidency "a Wall Street presidency, drone presidency, mass surveillance presidency unwilling to concretely target the new Jim Crow, massive unemployment, and other forms of poor and Black social misery.”
Why is Obama the punching bag du jour?
His attackers cite a long list of complaints including his handling of the attack on the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya, the new healthcare law, drone strikes, NSA spying and leaks, and a general lack of leadership and decisiveness.
And it's gotten bad enough that Democratic candidates running in Tuesday's midterm races have been distancing themselves from the President, most memorably, Kentucky Democratic Senate hopeful Alison Lundergan Grimes, who refused to say whether she voted for Obama when pressed by the media.
But it's all a matter of perspective, according to liberal comedian Bill Maher, who recently called Democrats "cowardly" for turning on Obama.
"If Democratic candidates would just stop throwing their own people and achievements under the bus and distancing themselves from their own president. That is never a winning strategy," he said on his show "Real Time with Bill Maher," before launching an alternate list of Obama accomplishments.
"Sixty-three straight months of economic expansion. A depression averted. A deficit reduced by two thirds. A health care law that’s working and lowering costs. Two women on the Supreme Court. Bin Laden’s dead. The stock market at record heights. An unemployment rate that dropped from 10.2 to 5.9...Gas prices are down."
"Is it really that hard of a record to get behind?" he asked.
Apparently, for a second-term president, it is.
And there's the rub. If history is any indication, there's a reason behind the Obama piñata act, and it's not Benghazi or healthcare or ISIS or Ebola.
It's something far less exciting: "the second-term curse," a sort of "seven-year itch" Americans experience with their presidents. It turns out sinking approval ratings and hostile attacks have historically been a side effect of winning a second term.
"President Obama's approval ratings could begin to slip as the wear and tear of the second term take hold, a result some consider inevitable for any second-term president due to public fatigue with the presidential administration, scandal, or political agenda setbacks," Gallup writes in a 2013 piece "US Presidents typically less popular in second term."
The phenomenon is so common – only Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton had better approval ratings in their second terms – its been given a name. The second-term scorn is usually exacerbated by a poor economy, and it turns out that the state of the economy is among the most important factors in determining presidential approval ratings and in determining how people will vote.
Frank Newport, editor-in-chief of Gallup, told the Washington Post this trend is simply "a regression to the mean," the gradual waning of the public's goodwill toward the president that he'd built up during his campaign for reelection and "the halo that comes with victory."