Republicans have this curious habit of loudly decrying something for a hot minute before doing a complete 180 and appropriating that exact same idea without attribution or even the slightest hint of self-awareness. Perhaps it’s a lack of original ideas or just a touch of jealousy. There’s probably a long German word for it.
Case in point: It wasn’t too long ago that the GOP had a serious problem with Obama’s “celebrity.” In 2008, John McCain ran this ad comparing then-candidate Obama to Britney Spears and Paris Hilton:
This, the party of movie star Ronald Reagan.
It was barely a month later that McCain announced his VP pick, a half-term governor who Republicans zealously rallied around despite her lack of experience, launching a career as, well, a C-list celebrity.
And now, of course, in Donald Trump we have a bona fide Republican celebrity running for the nation’s highest office.
Here I should pause and give credit to Slate‘s Jamelle Bouie who perhaps subconsciously inspired this piece with a similar approach back in May. I rediscovered his article while researching this one.
It seems that the right’s rants against Obama were simply a projection of their subconscious trait-desires in a presidential candidate. Take, for example, the idea of “American Exceptionalism.” Louisiana governor and failed presidential candidate Bobby Jindal stated last year that Obama “won’t proudly proclaim American exceptionalism.” By May he had endorsed the guy. Right-wing agitator and Breitbart contributor Pamela Geller said in 2009, “It is becoming increasingly clear that Obama ran for President because he hates America,” and that Obama is “a man who increasingly seems to be devoid of the basic decency that is inherent in those who have the genuine moral sense to distinguish between good and evil, right and wrong.” Here she is two months ago: “Trump must win in order for this nation to survive.”
More of the same with the military: For the better part of a decade Republicans have claimed that Obama is intentionally weakening our armed forces and has no respect for the troops. In Donald Trump we have a candidate who–in a break with tradition–didn’t even mention our troops during his acceptance speech, and is currently slandering the family of a U.S. Army captain who sacrificed his life to protect those of his fellow soldiers. Last year he made headlines for questioning the “war hero” status of John McCain, a man who spent nearly six years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam while Trump was busy getting military deferments for bone spurs. He’s lied about raising money for veterans.
And then there’s that whole dictator thing. Not only has Obama been accused of having dictatorial aims, but he’s been labeled weak in his dealings with authoritarian governments. Donald Trump has straight up said he thinks he’d “get along very well with Vladimir Putin,” and has openly pondered whether or not the Russian dictator would “become my new best friend.” His threats to “open up the libel laws” are a dark cloud over First Amendment freedoms, while his promises to mass-deport immigrants and prevent immigration by certain religious groups threaten the very fabric of American character and consciousness.
Throughout his presidency, Obama has been accused of godlessness. Despite living a family life beyond reproach and promoting values that are rooted in the biblical ideals of inclusiveness, compassion, and turning the other cheek, his evangelical critics have railed that he is “against Christ and against his teachings.” Jerry Falwell Jr. opened this year’s Republican National Convention saying that his father, the founder of Liberty University, believed the three biggest threats to America were “Osama, Obama, and yo mamma,” before loudly endorsing a thrice-married serial liar who doesn’t pay his bills.
I could go on and on. Whether it’s killing jobs or reckless foreign policy, the GOP’s projection is second only to its obstruction. The question is: What do they really want?