The New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman offers this fascinating column asking what happened to civilty when it comes to respect for the office of the President.
Our leaders, even the president, can no longer utter the word â€œweâ€ with a straight face. There is no more â€œweâ€ in American politics at a time when â€œweâ€ have these huge problems â€” the deficit, the recession, health care, climate change and wars in Iraq and Afghanistan â€” that â€œweâ€ can only manage, let alone fix, if there is a collective â€œweâ€ at work.
Sometimes I wonder whether George H.W. Bush, president â€œ41,â€ will be remembered as our last â€œlegitimateâ€ president. The right impeached Bill Clinton and hounded him from Day 1 with the bogus Whitewater â€œscandal.â€ George W. Bush was elected under a cloud because of the Florida voting mess, and his critics on the left never let him forget it.
And Mr. Obama is now having his legitimacy attacked by a concerted campaign from the right fringe. They are using everything from smears that he is a closet â€œsocialistâ€ to calling him a â€œliarâ€ in the middle of a joint session of Congress to fabricating doubts about his birth in America and whether he is even a citizen. And these attacks are not just coming from the fringe. Now they come from Lou Dobbs on CNN and from members of the House of Representatives.
Again, hack away at the manâ€™s policies and even his character all you want. I know politics is a tough business. But if we destroy the legitimacy of another president to lead or to pull the country together for what most Americans want most right now â€” nation-building at home â€” we are in serious trouble. We canâ€™t go 24 years without a legitimate president â€” not without being swamped by the problems that we will end up postponing because we canâ€™t address them rationally.
The American political system was, as the saying goes, â€œdesigned by geniuses so it could be run by idiots.â€ But a cocktail of political and technological trends have converged in the last decade that are making it possible for the idiots of all political stripes to overwhelm and paralyze the genius of our system.