What a difference an inauguration makes.
It was only a few months ago that "dissent is the highest form of patriotism" was still the rage among the elite, liberal, "tolerant" class.
But then Barack Obama became president. And now, suddenly, dissenters are paranoid, violent extremists worthy of surveillance by the federal Department of Homeland Security. Returning war veterans, who tend to be conservative and believe that terrorists ought to be called terrorists, need to be watched.
Average working Americans who held polite "Tea Party" protests on April 15 against confiscatory taxes and rampant government spending — protests marked by a lack of broken windows, overturned cars, torched buildings and injuries — are mocked with a not-so-veiled reference to a gay sex act. Conservative television and radio commentators are not only crazed nutcases, they are dangerous purveyors of hate and violence, unlike the civil, issue-oriented discourse of Keith Olbermann and Bill Maher.
It was only a few months ago that blocking every element of President Bush's agenda was tops on the elites' list of good things to do. Wanting him to fail was a very good thing, whether it was his effort to stabilize Social Security by giving individuals more responsibility and control of it or winning a war. It didn't matter if the Democrats didn't have a constructive alternative. Blocking Bush was enough — the highest form of political responsibility.
Then Obama became president. And suddenly any opposition to the president's agenda is not worthy of substantive debate or discussion. It is simply a very bad thing, to be dismissed with a label: The Party of No. Wanting his vast expansion of government authority and spending to fail is hateful and divisive.
It was only a few months ago that the only way to have any street cred as an elite was to throw something like "BushHitler" into your conversation. Even better was to call the president an idiot, insane, incompetent and/or a swaggering cowboy.
Then Obama became president. Suddenly, "swagga" is a very cool thing. What is not cool is to suggest that the president's agenda is leading us on a path to socialism. Or to suggest that he may not be as brilliant as the adoring press makes him out to be, since he can't seem to go anywhere or say much of anything without a teleprompter. Those are ugly political smears. Not cool at all.
It was a few years ago, when President Bush was nominating a justice for the Supreme Court, that I heard frenzied liberal elites on National Public Radio warning of the horror of one party holding the presidency and a majority in Congress, and therefore being able to appoint justices to the Supreme Court. It was all so unfair, they wailed.
Then the Democrats took Congress. Then Obama got elected. And now there are no wails of anguish, only celebration among the elites, at the prospect of one party controlling all three branches of government.
Only a few months ago, if a presidential 747 airliner had buzzed Manhattan for a photo shoot, coming within 1,500 feet of some of the buildings, there would have been a media feeding frenzy for the blood of President Bush. The words "arrogant" and "jerk" would have been the gentler labels. The story would have played for weeks, minimum. There is no way the press would have stood by meekly while the White House issued a perfunctory apology, prodded a single aide to fall on his sword, refused to say who was on the plane or released only one of the photos — shot for publicity purposes.
But Obama is the president. So while there was a flurry of criticism from those quickly labeled the "right-wing hate machine," it was a one- or two-day story at most for the mainstream media. Move along. Nothing to see here. Have you heard how fantastically the administration has been handling the swine — uh, I mean the H1N1 — flu crisis?
Until a few months ago, any elite conversation about President Bush had to include a standard line about him "shredding the Constitution."
But now Obama is president. And when asked what standard he will apply when nominating a successor to retiring Supreme Court Justice David Souter, the president said he wanted someone who "understands that justice isn't about some abstract legal theory or footnote in a casebook; it is also about how our laws affect the daily reality of people's lives, whether they can make a living and care for their families, whether they feel safe in their homes and welcome in their own nation."
Not a word about how judges are supposed to be blind to personal circumstance. Not a word about the Constitution. I guess we won't have to worry about the administration or the court shredding the Constitution, because there is no Constitution to shred.
It is fine, when a new president takes office, for the agenda to change, and reflect the philosophy of his party. Not so fine for the standards and rules for judging an administration to take a 180-degree turn.
Not the kind of change I'm believing in.