Lamar Alexander protests too much. Today he warns the President not to make an "Enemies' List" of his critics, all of them after all being well-meaning and honorable men, and he cautions Obama against the fate of the last President known to keep such a list, Richard Nixon. Alexander insists that all these honorable men, and there are honorable women involved as well, no doubt, "want to work" with the Administration. Does that extend to Rush Limbaugh, who has said that he wants the President to fail? Would Alexander acknowledge that Limbaugh, at least, is an enemy? Are the birthers enemies? Or do they just want to work with the President in clarifying beyond the last reach of doubt the where and when of his nativity for history's sake?
Were I in a more generous mood, I might grant that there's nothing personal to most Republican criticism of Obama's policies, and that from their own sensitive perspective such criticism should not rise to the level of enmity in anyone's mind. But when the criticism is so comprehensive that the President would have to abandon his own principles to "work with" an opposition that he is constitutionally unobliged to recognize, thanks to the verdict of the voters, Republicans should not sound so offended when their determination to deny Obama any fruits of his victory is described in fair language as enmity. The Republican party and its radio auxiliaries are waging a fear campaign to thwart the will of the electorate. How can that not look like enmity to at least some people?
For some people, Alexander's warning comes too late. I've seen supermarket tabloids that take the existence of such a list for granted and claim to report regularly on additions to it. Their market is those people who were already convinced a year ago that Barack Obama was their enemy, and those people are a constituency that no Republican would dare repudiate. Anyone who can stand to listen has probably heard such talk of enemies' lists on radio as well, or seen reports of lists online. This preemptive presumption of enmity means that enmity toward Obama existed, and he has enemies, independently of any perception of their enmity on Obama's part. I see no reason why the President's friends can't state this fact, although I'd advise them to identify such people as enemies of economic recovery, enemies of working people, enemies of public health, enemies of peace, etc., depending on the context, so that listeners realize that those named aren't enemies of Obama alone. For people like Lamar Alexander I'd recommend more honesty about their own positions and motives. And for him specifically, if he believes that Obama's recognition of his enemies must lead him to Nixonian tactics and a Nixonian fate, I might suggest an Idiot of the Week nomination.