Why is the former deputy national security adviser to President Barack Obama fantasizing about the deaths of Vice President Mike Pence, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan? Because Ben Rhodes resents the fact that democracy makes possible ideas that aren’t his own.
Nothing else could inspire the visceral hatred which led Rhodes to tweet that an Oval Office photo-op celebrating tax reform should be used “alongside the obits for Ryan, McConnell, and Pence.”
Obviously, this is repulsive. And it’s exactly the sort of thing Obama warned against during his final year in office when he bemoaned the lack of generosity and charity in politics. Fixing this, he said less than a year ago, was as simple as “changing the way we treat each other.” Obama was right, but Rhodes clearly wasn’t listening to his old boss.
Hypocrisy aside, that is also revealing. Lower corporate tax rates. Higher standard deductions. Simpler tax brackets for individual income. All of this is Republican orthodoxy, the sort of thing that Paul Ryan has dreamed about since waiting tables as a Capitol Hill staffer and McConnell has promised since the McKinley administration. In short, there isn’t anything new in the tax bill for Rhodes to hate. But it’s just the nature of the Obama alum to curse any opinion he finds objectionable.
It used not to be this way. While there was plenty of vitriol spewed on the right about Obama, everyone seemed to agree that both parties wanted what was best for America even if they wanted to go about it in different ways. For instance, Republicans condemned Obamacare as a radical socialism that did more harm than good. They said the legislation was disastrous, not insidious. Only fringe conservative crazies wished death upon Democrats, not former Bush administration officials.
Assumptions about the basic decency of the other side are long gone though. As Rhodes demonstrates, it’s easier to just dismiss the opposition as evil because they’re different.