I should have seen it coming: angry emails, phone calls, and an anonymous letter over my column last week concerning the conservative documentary 2016: Obama's America.
At issue are the Winston Churchill busts in the White House, one given to the White House in the 1960s and the other to President Bush after Sept. 11, 2001. The White House returned the newer bust after President Obama took office, while the original remains. The administration took flak over the removal of the bust, and erroneously suggested it was still there before acknowledging it made a mistake. Those are the facts. They are inarguable.
But somehow it is being debated as part of the film's empirical assertion that Obama is anti-colonial, and that he returned the bust because he hates what it represents. The White House denies this, of course, and there are those who deny what the White House says as truth.
Have we really reached this point in our country, and how did we get to the point that something like this is considered so important?
Perhaps in an effort to make myself feel better about the state of our nation, I sat down with my friend Pete Tipping, a neighbor, husband, and father, and a conservative. Like me, he's frustrated by all this nonsense from both sides of the political divide. What started as snide jokes about President Clinton and devolved into crazed conspiratorial whispers about President Bush, has grown into shouts of intolerance, hate, and outright falsehoods with Obama in office.
"It's just like the 'He's a Muslim' thing. If he's a Muslim, then he's the worst damn Muslim ever," Mr. Tipping said. "He supports abortion and gay rights [and] Islam is against this stuff. But they want to hold onto this thing because it's the most distasteful thing: 'He's got Hussein as a middle name, so he must be Muslim.'
"It's intellectually lazy. It's just like saying, 'You know what? You're ugly!' You don't take the time to actually attack someone's actual merits and the things they actually believe or are even trying to do that are contrary to what you think you should have in government."
And as a conservative Mr. Tipping says those on the fringe who clog up intellectual debates about the merits or lack thereof of Obama's first term as president with unsubstantiated fears over Obama's birthplace or that he is a Muslim -- what he calls the "seven crazy-man talking points" -- are distracting from relevant discussion.
"It's frustrating to me when people start making fallacious arguments, things that aren't relevant to the point or the conversation," he said. " ... They can't throw out facts, they just throw things in your face.
"If you're conservative what you should be talking about is, this is what the unemployment was when he started, this is what unemployment is now, this is what he said unemployment will be in this certain amount of time. Has he fulfilled that promise, yes or no? Do you think his continued policies are going to fix that problem?"
In this age of foaming-mouth rhetoric when pointless debates about the location of a bust and its political implications are distracting us from more worthy discussions about the challenges ahead, Mr. Tipping is a refreshing rarity: an informed citizen with a reasonable tone and demeanor toward others with polar viewpoints, and a willingness to accept divergent opinions as necessary to the health and growth of democracy.
He's also equally fair in giving almost no attention to politically motivated films, left- or right-leaning.
"I'm never going to watch the Al Gore [documentary], I'm never going to watch anything from Michael Moore, and I'm probably never going to watch [2016: Obama's America]," Mr. Tipping said. "I think my dad's going to see it; he'll tell me what it's about. He's got time to sit around and listen to all that stuff."
Contact Kirk Baird at firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6734.