Respect for presidency at an all-time low

The presidency of the United States is the highest office in the land, and the president has arguably the greatest means to leave his (or her) legacy on the country for generations to come. As an institution created by our founding fathers, it should follow that the office itself (note: not necessarily the person living at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.), should garner the greatest amount of respect from the public.

While citizens have the right to voice their disagreement with the president’s policies, goals and ideology, as outlined in the First Amendment, they should always do so in a civil manner. Unfortunately, it seems all remnants of civility have been lost from today’s political discourse, and many in public office have turned to personal attacks on the president as a means of expressing their disagreement with his policies.

Even before President Obama’s landslide election in 2008, Republicans (especially those most right) have been on the constant prowl for opportunities to publicly attack him in preparation for the 2012 election. Their claims have ranged from reasonable disputes over domestic and foreign policy to wild accusations about his citizenship and religion. It is these outrageous remarks, made by tea-party activists and right-wingers like Michelle Bachman and Rush Limbaugh, that are the most disturbing and harmful to the idea of governing civilly and productively.

How many times, for example, have we heard so-called “birthers” argue that President Obama was not born in the United States but in either Kenya or Hawaii before it became part of the Union? Never mind the fact that the president released his birth certificate prior to his election in 2008 and its long-form in April 2011. Forget the fact that Hawaii joined the Union August 21, 1959— one year and 348 days before Obama was born on August 4, 1961.
People, like Donald Trump who launched a brief and laughable bid to run for president this year, will continue to harp on this issue because they have no real ideas on how to help America regain its economic footing.

Similarly, there has been much debate over the president’s chosen religion. As of August 2010, when the latest poll of its kind was taken, 18 percent of Americans still believed that President Obama is a Muslim.

Forget the fact that these are some of the same people who attacked Obama during the campaign for his two decade-long affiliation with the Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago after his pastor, Jeremiah Wright, made inflammatory remarks about the U.S. during sermons.

Some make these falsified claims because his middle name is Hussein, a reason they cite as “proof” of his religion.

Surely, this is absurd. I must have missed the Sunday school lesson discussing how your name dictates which religion you must choose when you are a grown adult.

Finally, let us look back to President Obama’s September 2009 address to a Joint Session of Congress on healthcare, when SC Rep. Joe Wilson shouted, “You lie!” after the president said the law would not cover illegal immigrants. No matter your feelings on healthcare reform, surely you must agree that this was an act of blatant disrespect to the office of the president of the United States.

These disgusting personal attacks toward the president are just one symptom of the many problems of a broken Washington. Heated debate is welcome and is certainly healthy in forging America’s future. But it is imperative all partisans (on both sides of the aisle) raise their standards and use this passionate discussion in a productive way that shows the public our leaders care more about our jobs than their own. Idealistic? Maybe. Necessary? Absolutely.