Can’t Win

09.25.14 9:45 AM ET

Obama, the Coffee Salute, and the Dementia on the Right

Should he have switched hands? Dropped the cup? Not drank the coffee? Declared war on coffee growers? Any way, the right woulda whacked him.

Since his inauguration, Republicans have criticized President Obama for everything. For launching military strikes. For not launching military strikes. For taking vacations. For being too uptight. For fist-bumping. For being too detached. You name it. Progressives and those who simply like fair-minded political debate have alleged that the actual facts of President Obama’s actions are irrelevant, that Republicans who were determined to oppose everything the president did from Day One would criticize his every move no matter what.

To illustrate this, let’s look at two recent examples of Republican outrage and how, if the facts were entirely different, Republicans would nonetheless be outraged. It’s like a “Choose Your Own Adventure” tale, except the outcome is always the same—Republicans portraying President Obama as singularly awful in every way.

Story Number One: The Coffee Cup Salute

This week, President Obama disembarked from Air Force One while holding his jacket in his left hand and a coffee cup in his right. He saluted the Marines standing guard on the tarmac with his right hand—the hand with the coffee cup in it. The right wing exploded with outrage.

What could the President have done differently? Here are three other scenarios—and how the right wing would have reacted… with outrage.

Variation A: The Coffee Cup Handoff

Rather than salute with the coffee cup in his hand, President Obama hands the cup to an aide standing on the steps behind him. Right-wingers tweet: “Obama treats his staff like servants. Natch, for a dictator.”

Variation B: He Switches Hands

It is damn hard to transfer a coffee cup from one hand into an encumbered other hand all while walking down the stairs. So the president spills the coffee. The headline on conservative web sites? “Obama: Can’t handle a cup of coffee or the world’s challenges.”

Variation C: He Forgoes the Damn Coffee

The story gets out that Obama skipped his usual afternoon dose of caffeine heading toward the U.N. meeting. Later, the decaffeinated president yawns. The picture makes the front page of the New York Post, Breitbart, and so on. BAM BORED BY WAR, goes the Post headline. “I think you’re boring too,” Michelle Malkin tweets.

Story Number Two: The White House Intruder

A man managed to climb over the White House fence and bolt for the front door, just barely entering the building at which point he was tackled by the Secret Service. Conservatives have attacked the lax security under Obama, even straining to tie the threat to ISIS. And, as Gov. Mike Huckabee wrote, “Maybe now Obama’s White House staff will understand how our Southern border states feel.” Now of course this was an unfortunate incident, and security protocols need to be reviewed. But no matter what there’s a way to make it Obama’s fault…

Variation A: Secret Service Tackles the Intruder

The White House intruder is Latino. So say the Secret Service nabs him on the lawn, in plain sight of tourists with cameras. Conservatives subsequently post the pictures online with captions like, “Obama doesn’t mind Hispanics invading the United States border, as long as you don’t invade his house.” “The only Latino fence-jumper Obama’s arrested in six years.”

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Variation B: Secret Service Shoots the Intruder

Fox News produces tear-jerker interviews with young trespasser’s family. Right-wing columnists call for Eric Holder to launch a full-scale federal investigation on racial profiling at the White House. If he doesn’t then he’s a hypocrite because, you know, Ferguson.

Conservatives are so determined to bash Obama that they will go through whatever contortions of fact or logic are necessary to attack the president no matter what. See also Republicans criticizing Obama for not doing something to get Bowe Berghdahl released before he did do something, and then they criticized him for that. Or criticizing Obama for not enforcing our broken immigration laws until he does so by deporting more immigrants than any previous president, and conservatives then charge that the numbers are fake.

The examples are almost as boundless as Republicans’ desperation to repeatedly point fingers at the president to distract from the fact that Republicans have no solutions for the actual issues facing the American people. 

We get it. You hate the guy. So America gives you a salute. But not the kind done with four fingers.