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Why presidential disrespect seems plausible

Both the White House and Rep. Pete Sessions have denied that he told Obama he couldn't "stand to look at" him--but it doesn't seem that far-fetched.
President Barack Obama stands with supporters of his health care law during an event in the Rose Garden of the White House
President Barack Obama stands with supporters of his health care law during an event in the Rose Garden of the White House on the initial rollout of the health care overhaul on Monday, Oct. 21, 2013 in Washington.

"I cannot even stand to look at you."

There's still no definitive proof that any Republican lawmaker actually said those eight words to President Obama, as Sen. Dick Durbin wrote in a recent Facebook post, but it hasn't stopped the story from sparking quite the conversation in Washington. 

Ryan Grim has dug into the story for the Huffington Post. The comment was attributed to GOP Rep. Pete Sessions by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who apparently heard it from a White House aide. Both Sessions and the White House have denied the whole thing, with the latter chalking it up to a "miscommunication."

At this point the whole thing has begun to sound like a convoluted game of telephone, but as Rev. Sharpton has pointed out, the story resonates because it doesn't seem that implausible. 

President Obama has been subject to ridicule and disrespect from countless members of the GOP, not just pundits but elected officials. Obama hadn't been in office a year when Rep. Joe Wilson broke decorum during Obama's special address to Congress to yell, "You lie!"

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell openly announced that turning Obama into a "one-term president" was his number one goal. House Speaker John Boehner has rejected a ride on Air Force One and several dinner invitations. Others have also turned down White House invites. Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer wagged her finger in the president's face during a visit in 2012.

While the disrespect for (and misinformation about) the president spread by pundits goes beyond what all but a small minority of Republicans would ever say publicly, the right-wing talkers may ultimately play a role in inspiring what comes from the mouths of lawmakers. The situation creates what Grim described as a perpetual feedback loop. Rush Limbaugh and his fellow talkers stoke up the GOP base and Tea Party types, who run off to town halls to make sure their elected lawmakers know just how they feel about Obama, who then turn around to represent that anger, often running back to right wing media.

"If you think about the way that liberals thought about George W. Bush towards the end of his term, [right wingers] hate Obama far more than even liberals did to Bush, and that's saying something," he said.