Last week, in his column in the New York Times, Thomas Friedman broached a subject that nags at many Americans. “I have no problem with any of the substantive criticism of President Obama from the right or left,” he wrote. “But something very dangerous is happening. Criticism from the far right has begun tipping over into delegitimation and creating the same kind of climate here that existed in Israel on the eve of the Rabin assassination.”
Increasingly, rage is the dominant mood of US politics – but the feeling is not confined to the far right. Committed partisans on both sides question their opponents’ legitimacy. It is one thing for an adversary to be mistaken, quite another to be a liar or traitor. You do not argue with an opponent like that, or seek an accommodation. You silence him, you shout him down, you impeach.
Right-wing “birthers” question whether Mr Obama was born in the US and can lawfully be president. Their leftwing counterparts think George W. Bush stole the 2000 election, then permitted the attacks of 9/11 to justify his war against Iraq and the creation of a police state. Conservatives deride Mr Obama’s healthcare plan as a plot to turn the US socialist. Liberals, led by former president Jimmy Carter, no less, suggest that much of the opposition to Mr Obama is mere racism.
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