Four More Years of Hyperbole?

Un-American. Socialist. Communist. Nazi. Fascist. Bastard. Muslim. Godless. Antichrist. Illegal. Spook. Boy. Monster. Monkey. Lazy.

These are some of the words that have been used to describe Barack Obama over the last several years.

Here’s one more description: Two-term president.

That’s the one that so many tried so hard to stop.

As soon as Obama became a presidential candidate for the 2008 election, the name-calling started. It grew louder and louder throughout the campaign. At one point, John McCain corrected a woman who said she heard Obama was an Arab. “No, ma’am,” he told her. “He’s a decent family man [and] citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues.”

The slurs increased after Obama was elected and the Tea Party formed. Their protests to reduce government spending, taxes and the deficit were often laced with racial epithets. (Curious how the Tea Party never protested these issues while the previous white Republican big-spender was still in office.)

Rush Limbaugh greeted Obama’s first days in office with “I hope he fails.” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said in an October 2010 interview, “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.” Republicans made it clear that they would walk away from any legislation Obama tried to pass, denying him any bipartisan compromise.

When Republicans began campaigning for the 2012 election (nearly as soon as Obama was elected), they attacked Obama’s policies like healthcare reform and the automakers’ bailout, but the more insidious and viral attacks took on a different color, if you’ll pardon the pun. The ubiquitous and ridiculous questions about Obama’s birth certificate spawned a whole group of “Birthers.” He was painted as a liberal extremist who was sworn into office on the Quran and plotted to take people’s guns away.

During a July town hall meeting in Bowling Green, Ohio, in response to a woman’s assertion that Obama is a “monster,” Romney replied, “That’s not the term I would use.” Why go out of your way to paint your opponent as a human being? Similarly, Romney never corrected his campaign attack dog John H. Sununu when he implied that Obama is un-American or used the code word “lazy” when describing the president’s lackluster performance during his first debate against Romney.

Donald Trump, who endorsed Romney, was one of the leaders in questioning whether Obama was born in the U.S. and eligible to be president. His October surprise was a promise to contribute $5 million to a charity of Obama’s choice if the president released his college and passport records. There’s no way he could have been president of the Harvard Law Review, right?

In an election night Twitter tirade, Trump tweeted the election was “a total sham and a travesty.” He encouraged a “revolution in this country” and tweeted: “The electoral college is a disaster for a democracy.” Republicans thought they had this election wrapped up, but talk about a sore loser.

Things turned a little ugly late that night at the University of Mississippi when a protest against the re-election of President Obama grew into a crowd of about 400 people shouting racial slurs. Some reported the burning of an Obama campaign sign. The school had just recognized the 50th anniversary of violent rioting during the forced integration of Ole Miss with the enrollment of its first black student, James Meredith.

And just down the road from here, in Gainesville, Dove World Outreach Center pastor Terry Jones promoted Jan. 19, 2013, as a day for nationwide burning of effigies and images of “President Hussein Obama.”

“The results of the election were either a fraud or a continuing example of how the American people have been duped,” his press release stated. “He is destroying the moral and financial fiber of our country.”

He circulated photos of a display on the Dove World property that depicts a black-skinned human figure, dressed in a suit, hanging from a noose over a freshly dug grave with a tombstone that reads “OBAMA PRESIDENCY DEAD NOVEMBER 2012.” It is designed so that some words are so small they cannot be read, making it effectively read “OBAMA DEAD.”

This is the same man who previously threatened to burn copies of the Quran and lent his support to the pathetically childish “Innocence of Muslims” film that sparked protests around the world. He’s a crazed and ignorant controversy chaser whose church now has only about 50 members and lost its tax-exempt status in 2010 after it was determined that parts of its campus were being used for Jones’ furniture-shipping business. But he does have free speech rights.

Jones has no interest in healing partisan wounds and moving forward. He only cares about stoking more controversy with some of the most potent, ugly, racist metaphors that exist in the U.S. He is on the fringe, and that is where he should stay.

The problem is that the fringe has taken up residence with more and more of the real estate in the middle. With the help of polarized, self-selecting media reinforced by social circles that allow no challenges admission, ideas like Jones’ take on lives of their own through reply-all emails.

Consider this September letter to the editor that ran in The Florida Times-Union from Orson Swindle III, a retired U.S. Marine Corps lieutenant colonel who served as assistant secretary of commerce in the Reagan administration: “His [Obama’s] re-election would be a disaster for us all, especially for our children and grandchildren. His re-election would be an insult, a crime and a tragedy to all of us.”

Do we have four more years of this kind of hyperbole ahead of us?

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