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Sign of the times

Brooks Smith | Thursday, September 10, 2009

In my last column in this esteemed newspaper, I wrote about using my privileged position as a junior in order to “hook-up” or “score” with insecure freshman girls. The column, written with tongue firmly planted in cheek, immediately ignited a blaze of controversy. My e-mail inbox was absolutely flooded with furious letters assaulting me for my lack of respect for basic social decency. The fire burned so hot that several North Quad dorms needed to be evacuated in its aftermath.

The offending column is, needless to say, no longer available on The Observer Web site, as it was far too provocative to be exposed to the eyes of our easily offended alumni. So for this, my second column, I decided to tone it down and write about something less controversial: politics.

The jumping-off point for this column actually originated in a ‘quick bit’ I read in some newspaper or other last week. Rex Rammell, a hunting enthusiast campaigning to be governor of Idaho, made a quip about issuing hunting tags for, you guessed it, Barack Obama. When he came under fire for his remarks, he said, in effect, “Hey, I was just joking. Everyone knows hunting tags issued in Idaho aren’t valid in Washington, D.C.!”


As someone who leans to the left side of the fence, I had the opportunity to take offense at this tasteless (though admittedly clever) joke from Mr. Potato Head. But rather than have such a self-serious and predictable response, I chose to be relieved that we finally have a president somebody thinks is worth assassinating.

Seriously, when was the last time that happened? (And I see you history buffs in the corner chanting Reagan’s name. Shut up. That doesn’t count and you know it.)

Even before he was elected, there were not one, but two plots to assassinate Obama during the campaign: one taking root in Denver, and one in Tennessee. That’s pretty incredible. By comparison, there were zero assassination plots in all of the 20 years before that.

If you graph that data and make a chart of assassination attempts vs. time, a small but discernible spike occurs around the time Obama comes on the national scene. Coincidence? I think not.

These statistics are particularly shocking when you consider the controversy surrounding the presidency directly before Obama’s. George W. Bush was at various times accused of lying to the American people (WMDs), authorizing torture, expanding the power of the executive branch to unconscionable levels (PATRIOT Act), running the economy into the ground and lying to the American people. Most of these accusations had at least some basis in fact, and Dubya himself certainly did little to prove them wrong.

Yet not one of the angry left-wing loonies ever volunteered to take his life into their own hands – by, say, killing him with a gun they got in a state with loose gun control laws. Why? They were probably too depressed to do much other than chuckle halfheartedly at Jon Stewart while slumped in front of the TV. It was that kind of era.

Perhaps there are other causes as well. Various people have called Obama’s adjectives like “socialist,” “socialist,” “communist,” “socialist” and “socialist.” Some have even gone so far as to label him a “socialist.” He’s come under fire for pulling out of Iraq too quickly, for not pulling out of Iraq quickly enough, for taking an approach to the financial crisis that was too limited and restrained, for taking an approach to the financial crisis that was too radical and risky and for an offense known as BPWB – Being President While Black. (Sample zingers: “It’s called the White House for a reason!” You can safely deploy that one at any ND party.)

Me, I’m hesitant to tag Obama as a “socialist.” To me, it just smacks too much of Joe McCarthy, circa 1954. But it’s good to know there are other, braver souls out there who aren’t afraid to call a spade a spade, so to speak.

So are there a number of attempts on Obama’s life because conservatives are nutjobs? Or, conversely, were there no attempts on Bush’s life because liberals are pansies? Sadly, the answers to such questions are far beyond the purview of a humble Viewpoint column. But the real take-away message is that Obama’s presidency is an exciting time for everyone, from progressives to homicidal maniacs.

God bless America.

Brooks Smith is a junior Math and English major at Notre Dame. He can be contacted at [email protected]

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not

necessarily those of The Observer.