Barack Obama is a terrible president who pushes bad policies, and the First Amendment protects your right to express that

Obama float

You may have heard that the Justice Department has gotten involved in the kerfluffle over an anti-Obama float that was included in a Nebraska town’s Independence Day parade because its of allegedly racial overtones. Yes, seriously, because the Justice Department doesn’t have anything better to do.

The float featured a zombie and an outhouse labeled “Obama Presidential Library.” The guy who sponsored the tasteless float denies that he was trying to send a racial message, though he has acknowledged that he isn’t a fan of President Obama.

To put it bluntly, this is the dumbest of mind-numbingly dumb controversies. But it has sparked some discussion about the apparent sensitivities of the Obama administration and its response to criticism. And as Charles C. W. Cooke explains, mocking our elected officials — including presidents — is sort of in our blood:

It is always tempting to believe one’s own time to be particularly interesting or fractious, but there is little in politics that is genuinely new. Sharp and violent denunciations of the executive branch have been a feature of American life since the republic’s first days. Before the Revolution, the colonists routinely hanged likenesses of unpopular royal representatives, including King George III; Andrew Oliver, the Massachusetts Distributor of Stamps; and the loyalist Supreme Court justice, Thomas Hutchinson. Afterward, having dispensed with the old guard, Americans took to lambasting the new, among them George Washington, who had effected the king’s defeat; Thomas Jefferson, who had authored the charter of separation; and James Madison, who had drafted the lion’s share of the new Constitution. Chief Justice John Jay’s 1795 treaty with the British was so wildly unpopular among the Jeffersonians that Jay reported being able to travel from Boston to Philadelphia by the light of his burning effigies. Later, during the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln was subjected to the treatment. In one form or another, most presidents have been.

The modern era has served as no exception to the rule. During his two terms, George W. Bush was the object of considerable opprobrium, his likeness being frequently hanged, knived in the forehead, and even assassinated on prime-time television. At the height of the Left’s umbrage, progressive heroes Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield went so far as to take a twelve-foot effigy of Bush on a national tour, setting fire to it at each stop to the audience’s hearty cheers. Ben and Jerry make ice cream, not apple pie. But their barnstorming road trip could not have been more American. There are few things more indicative of human liberty than the ability to castigate power with impunity — up to and including the moment of offense. “To learn who rules over you,” Voltaire suggested, “simply find out who you are not allowed to criticize.” Is Barack Obama to be a ruler?

Though protected under the First Amendment, racism should, of course, be rejected. There simply is no place for it in the political discussion. No one is saying otherwise. But the problem is that nearly everyone who criticizes President Obama is labeled as a “racist” by Democrats.

That’s a problem that Republicans are already facing in their criticism of Hillary Clinton, who may or may not run for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016. Legitimate policy issue or criticism of her handling of Benghazi, it doesn’t matter to Democrats. If you disagree with her, you’re a sexist. Or something.

As Americans, we have a right to express disagreement with our elected officials, regardless of whether or not it’ll offend them. And we shouldn’t have to be worried about the Justice Department getting involved whenever we express disagreement with or mock an elected official, especially a president, even if it’s done in a tasteless fashion.

Sadly, there are people who just can’t get over the fact that this nation has progressed socially to the point at which an African-American was elected to the White House. And, sure, there are radical people with nefarious motives out there who deserve to be scrutinized by law enforcement agencies. But the two aren’t mutually exclusive.

But after this story about the float in a Nebraska parade, one has to wonder what this administration considers to be an acceptable or appropriate amount of criticism or mockery in order to avoid having someone from the Justice Department show up in their town to ask questions.

Until there is some sort of guidance from the administration, you’re just going to have keep asking yourself this question before you criticize President Obama:


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