"It profits me but little that a vigilant authority always protects the tranquillity of my pleasures and constantly averts all dangers from my path, without my care or concern, if this same authority is the absolute master of my liberty and my life."

--Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Disqualifying Contempt

There was an article recently about Barack Obama's campaign in Politico that included the following frankly astonishing passage:

[Obama's] campaign [is] being animated by one thing above all. It is not exclusively about hope and change anymore, words that seem like distant echoes even to Obama’s original loyalists — and to the president himself. It is not the solidarity of a hard-fought cause, often absent in this mostly joyless campaign. It is Obama’s own burning competitiveness, with his remorseless focus on beating Mitt Romney — an opponent he genuinely views with contempt and fears will be unfit to run the country.

I've been thinking about this description of Obama's attitude toward Romney for a few days.   It sticks with me.   It passed without much comment from the Politico writers, but to me it literally jumps off the page.  

Contempt.   It's an amazing word.   From Webster's, it means "the state of mind of one who despises."   From Webster's again, "despises" means "to look down on with contempt or aversion" or "to regard as negligible, worthless, or distasteful."   In short, what Obama apparently feels toward Romney, as reported by the liberal reporters at Politico (hardly a right-wing outfit), is that he hates Romney.

Here's my problem with that.   First, it is unseemly and undemocratic for a leader in a free country, a democratic country, in what we hope is a civil society, to hate his political opponents.   We disagree.   We debate.   We make arguments and we present evidence.   We seek to persuade the country that we are correct and our opponent is wrong.   But we do not and should not "hate" our political opponents.   It's a dangerous attitude.

More importantly, however... what does it say about Barack Obama that he could hate a man like Mitt Romney?   A fellow American who has never committed a crime, who has never been divorced, who has raised five children to successful adulthood, who is a beloved grandfather to eighteen grandchildren, who has had what President Bill Clinton called a "sterling" business career, who gave up untold tens or hundreds of millions of future wealth to retire from Bain to run the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics, who served honorably as the governor of Massachusetts, who has given tens of millions of dollars to charity and paid tens or hundreds of millions in taxes, etc., etc.   To despise him, to vilify him, to hate him is to provide extraordinary evidence of an almost pathological separation from reality.

Such hatred is, in short, disqualifying.  

Not that I needed other reasons to vote against Obama.   But, seriously... "contempt"? 

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