Hating Bush vs. Hating Obama


During the administration of George W. Bush, I remember feeling a more or less chronic sense of despair and incredulity at the state my country was in. Lots of my friends felt the same way. And many others in this nation and in the world felt similarly. The distinguished historian Eric Foner wrote a Washington Post piece about W’s Presidency. It was called “He’s the Worst Ever.” Greg Brown, one of America’s greatest singer-songwriters, began performing a song in concert called “I Want My Country Back,” an anguished cry of despair about Bush’s America.

Why did we feel this way?

Thinking back, I can name several reasons I personally despised Bush as a president:

• the farces of the recount in Florida and the Supreme Court decision in Bush v. Gore

• war in Iraq

• surrender of environmental policy to industry

• torture

• tax breaks for the wealthy

• Bush’s blithe, dismissive personal manner, and his ineptitude with language

Today, three and a half years into the administration of Barack Obama, I think it’s obvious that some people feel the same level of disgust for him that I and others did for Bush. (Although I haven’t heard any distinguished historians call him the worst ever, nor any august singer-songwriters pouring out their despair in song.)

What I honestly want to think about here, though, is what specific reasons the Obama despisers could possibly have for despising Obama as a president.

* * *

Let’s think about the signature events in Obama’s time in the Oval Office:

• The Affordable Care Act? I can’t believe that anyone could hate Obama with a blazing passion over this one. For Pete’s sake, it started as an idea from a conservative think tank.

• The killing of Osama bin Laden? Only Noam Chomsky hates Obama for this one.

• The appointments of Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court? Too wonky to inspire much hate.

• The end of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell? Nah. Polls indicated that almost 8 of 10 Americans favored ending this discriminatory policy.

• The economic stimulus? The bailout of the auto industry? Besides those who were actually helped by these, I don’t think most people even know what these measures really consisted of.

• The recession in general? I guess some people probably resent Obama for not catapulting the economy into high gear somehow and generating full employment, but I think people mostly realize that the President really doesn’t have the power to control something as massive and multifarious as the US economy.

• The growth of the deficit? This is certainly one that you hear from critics of Obama—that he has presided over an unprecedented expansion of government spending that is driving us into economic ruin. But, as this Washington Post graphic makes clear, the argument has serious problems. I doubt that much hatred of Obama is sincerely based on the deficit.

• His personal style and manner? Seems highly unlikely, given Obama’s winning personality, friendly smile, and facility with language.

* * *

I’ve given it my best shot, and I really cannot come up with any fact-based reasons to hate Obama.

You might have disagreements with him. You might be dissatisfied with some of the things that have happened on his watch. But it seems objectively true that nothing that has happened in Obama’s term of office could legitimately prompt the level of disgust and anger that numerous events during Bush’s presidency did.

It should be acknowledged that Obama does not inspire intense dislike as widespread as that inspired by Bush. A recent Wall Street Journal/NBC poll indicated that 2 out 3 Americans say they like Obama.

I’m forced to conclude—as I have thought before and as many others have also concluded—that the high level of antipathy and derision that Obama inspires in a minority of Americans people is connected with his race: the facts that his father was African, his wife is African American, and he identifies himself as black.

Obama hatred is a thin stew—a few morsels of policy disagreement floating in a gravy of racial resentment, paranoiac birther fantasy, and simple prejudice. The good news is that, at this point in history, America’s appetite for such a stew seems relatively weak.

Frank Kovarik (14 Posts)

Frank Kovarik teaches high school English in St. Louis, where he lives with his wife and three daughters. He blogs at Corresponding Fractions.

  • JMuller

    Frank, I hate to say this, but this is a horribly reasoned article.  You cherry picked certain items from each presidency, used completely biased language to describe them and then used the “fact” that Obama has a “winning personality, friendly smile, and facility with language.” which couldn’t be any more of the case of “the eye of the beholder.”  Many people find him smug, condescending and incredibly unintelligent sounding when off the cuff and their reasoning is just as valid as yours (I find him bland and full of useless bromides, i.e. a very typical politician). Essentially, you dislike Bush’s policies and like Obama’s; therefore one is deserving of hatred and the other praise.  To attempt a political or cultural comment from such flimsy evidence is unworthy of the time you devoted to this article.
    I think both Bush and Obama are lousy presidents neither of whom deserves our hatred.  To justify hatred of one but not the other is simply rank partisanship.  We need to examine why we feel the need to hate our political opponents instead of disagreeing with them.  This article does nothing to further any debate.  Sorry, I didn’t wish to be so harsh, but the sheer incivility I see all around me is maddening.  Now that I have had my say, let the two minutes of hate commence.

  • Frank Kovarik

    Bush originally became president after outmaneuvering Gore in the recount fight and then being handed the office by a partisan Supreme Court. He led us into a war based on mistaken premises, a war in which tens of thousands of innocent civilians died and thousands of US troops were killed or maimed. He gave huge tax breaks to the richest Americans, further sending the country into debt. He allowed industry to take control of environmental protections. Under his administration, torture was justified and promulgated. And he waved off criticism by crudely insisting that he was “the decider.” 

    These aren’t cherry picked examples—they’re the most glaring, memorable, significant aspects of the man’s Presidency. And they are worthy of contempt. 

    Some people who hold Obama in contempt (you are not one of them, I note) may justify their scorn based on the reciprocal feelings that liberals had for his Republican predecessor. But there’s no comparison, unless I’m missing something in my tally of the major events of Obama’s years in office. And if I’m missing something, by all means please tell me what it is.

  • I think that one way to measure this issue is to use an equation (not thoroughly exact) which would be “How much does the president care about the American people and enact policies to help them minus the limitations that emanate from the damage done to an office-holder by the slimey way in which we choose them.  Simply put, I would give Obama a plus and Bush a negative.  I agree with Frank.

  • I think that one way to measure this issue is to use an equation (not thoroughly exact) which would be “How much does the president care about the American people and enact policies to help them minus the limitations that emanate from the damage done to an office-holder by the slimey way in which we choose them. Simply put, I would give Obama a plus and Bush a negative. I agree with Frank

  • Mike

    I agree with the original comment, “I think both Bush and Obama are lousy presidents neither of whom
    deserves our hatred.  To justify hatred of one but not the other is
    simply rank partisanship.”

    Bush started wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Obama let the Iraq misadventure unwind on a time table established by Bush and the Iraqis.  Obama escalated the war in Afghanistan and started new war play in Pakistan, Yemen, Libya and elsewhere is Africa.  He is licking his chops at the prospect of killing/starving more civilians in Syria and Iran.  Obama condones torture (reintroduced extraordinary rendition) and approved an extension of the so-called “Bush-era tax cuts.”  Obama affirmed the PATRIOT act, expanded it under the NDAA.  Killing Tim Osman?  Are you serious?


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  • heatherGirl

    Wow are you really this stupid?
    You hated Bush because he was a conservative with a conservative agenda. So why can’t a conservative hate Obama because he is a liberal with a liberal agenda?
    Seems you think your free to hate someone whose politics you don’t like……. but no one else is allowed to do the same.
    Why does not liking Obama’s agenda have anything to do with his skin color? You hated Bush, you said so yourself. So do you hate him because he is white?
    Or do you get to hate Bush for his poltics? If so why is it someone else can not hate Obama for his politics.
    Your the only one making it racism! Seems that makes you the person with the problem!
    Bush was a racist? His sec. of State was not only black, but also a women. His Attorney general was Hispanic.

  • tevra

    while I agree with you politically to an extent, when you go public like this you should at least make an attempt to be impartial. It was obvious to many of us from the start that the policies of Presidents Obama and Bush were very similar and Bush was only considered to be a Conservative because he was Republican. and by the way why is a man who is mixed race and primarily raised by the white parent called “black” when we are supposedly in a nation and time when race is not supposed to matter?
    I wonder about this as the father and uncle of mixed race children who have more questions than they should since this president and the unreasonable hatred of him