Opinion by Petula Dvorak
The Obamas: Refusing to give in to the haters after years of threats and abuse
The most popular license in America now?
A license to hate.
And one of the most popular targets is President Obama, the country’s first African American commander-in-chief.
It’s no secret that America’s first family has received an unprecedented number of threats over the past seven years.
But the fever pitch of hate and bile toward the president and his family have taken an even sharper tone thanks to the primordial swamp that is the current presidential campaign.
It’s impossible to utter a single word about the White House, the first family or the president without a blast from the fire hose of haterade.
I can see it in my email inbox.
A column about the White House Easter egg roll?
“Go back to Kenya,” a reader (one of scores who said similar things) spat in response.
“So when is Obama to be killed?” another emailer wondered.
This was in response to Easter eggs, remember.
But that doesn’t matter. It can be school lunches, children’s books, dresses or kids going off to college. The trolls are there, ripping everything Obama to shreds.
A USA Today story about plans for their younger daughter’s school days prompted this gem:
“The first thing that Trump needs to do is call an exterminator and someone to cleanse the Whitehouse of their presence,” spewed a citizen of Hateville.
Ah, there’s the name. Donald Trump.
The front-runner for the GOP nomination may have something to do with the ramping up of the hate-o-meter.
His drumbeat as a birther from way back — demanding the president’s birth certificate long after the issue had been settled and re-settled — and his racially charged, violence-tinged rallies have given a strain of Americans license to hate out loud.
Disagree with Obama’s politics and policies, sure. That’s how it’s supposed to work.
But there is a viciousness, a racist edge to the hate-speak that echoes the darkest days of American history.
And as Trump publicly mulls punishing women who have abortions, prattles on about his hand size and stages a nasty fight with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) over who has the hotter wife, he’s reminding a lot of Americans of what they admire about Obama.
Last week, Obama’s approval rating edged up to 53 percent, according to Gallup. His predecessor had a 32 percent rating at this time in his presidency.
For someone who has been attacked the way Obama has, for a father and husband who has endured verbal assaults and physical threats to his family, the president’s demeanor has been dignified.
There have been dozens of people indicted on charges of threatening to harm him since he took office. In 2011, a gunman fired at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. from Constitution Avenue and at least seven bullets struck the White House when Sasha Obama and her grandmother, Marian Robinson, were home. Three years later, a fence jumper armed with a knife actually made it inside the mansion before being tackled by an off-duty Secret Service agent.
Sources in the security community told Washington Post reporter Juliet Eilperin that when he took office, Obama received triple the number of threats that previous presidents faced during the election and his first year in office.
Both the Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center have seen huge jumps in threats against the president and the formation of hate groups during the past seven years.
Scary stuff. Yet while partisan politics deadlocks a crucial Supreme Court nomination and election-season rancor flares on both sides of the aisle, the Obamas refuse to give in to the ugly behavior and rhetoric around them.
The insults aren’t met with insults. The bile is not returned with vile responses.
The first family looks forward, past the haters. They embody the respect that the highest office in the land deserves. And they are teaching a powerful lesson in class and civility to a country that sorely needs it.
There really isn’t much to add to what Petula Dvorak has said so eloquently. Despite nastiness like I have never seen before, the Obama’s have kept their poise and dignity. For me, they were absolutely the right choice.