Those familiar with Internet memes have probably come across the “Thanks, Obama” phenomenon. President Obama himself has even had some fun with it.
The basic idea is simple: the president’s critics have grown to detest Obama with such blinding and irrational hatred that they have a habit of blaming him for things he has nothing to do with. When anything goes wrong with any facet of anyone’s life, just point the finger at the White House and say, sarcastically, “Thanks, Obama.”
The meme came to mind this morning reading Peggy Noonan’s latest Wall Street Journal column in which she blames the president for, of all things, Donald Trump’s rise as a Republican contender.
The only thing I feel certain of is how we got here [with Trump’s standing in GOP polls]. There are many reasons we’re at this moment, but the essential political one is this: Mr. Obama lowered the bar. He was a literal unknown, an obscure former state legislator who hadn’t completed his single term as U.S. senator, but he was charismatic, canny, compelling. He came from nowhere and won it all twice. All previously prevailing standards, all usual expectations, were thrown out the window.Anyone can run for president now….
Look, Noonan’s contempt for the president is hardly a secret, but blaming Obama for Trump is silly.
For one thing, the president wasn’t a “literal unknown.” He was a rising star in Democratic politics who gained a national profile at his party’s 2004 national convention. It’s true that Obama only had 12 years of experience in public office when he was elected president, but (a) that’s triple the number of years Mitt Romney had under his belt; (b) it’s largely consistent with the historical average for modern American presidents; and (c) and it’s more than many of the leading Republican presidential hopefuls have this year.
Noonan complains, “Anyone can run for president now.” Well, yes, and anyone could run for president before. President Obama has had an enormous impact on the nation’s direction, but eligibility standards for the White House remain unaffected.
The argument seems to be that Obama, by having the audacity to easily win two national elections with only 12 years in elected office and without earning the praise of Republican pundits, has made it easier for unqualified candidates to excel. The fact remains, however, that voters have seen all kinds of inexperienced and ill-prepared candidates over the years – before and after President Obama – and it’s up to Americans to decide whether or not those candidates are worthy of power.
Obama earned their trust and his successes and accomplishments should speak for themselves. Plenty of less prepared candidates have fared far worse.
As for holding the president responsible for Trump, let’s not forget that the reality-show host entered the 2016 contest as something of a joke. We’re not talking about “a literal unknown” taking advantage of lowered standards; we’re talking about a well-known celebrity who entered the race with roughly 3% support.
His numbers soared, however, when far-right voters liked what they heard from the candidate.
Given this, it seems Peggy Noonan is blaming the wrong culprit. Trump’s rise isn’t the result of President Obama’s two decades of public service; it’s the result of the Republican base embracing a clownish candidate.