“I’m not concerned with your liking or disliking me … all I ask is that you respect me as a human being.” — Jackie Robinson

To say that President George W. Bush did a lot of dumb things and was criticized for them would be an understatement of magnificent proportions. Bush-bashing became quite a sport over the past few years, and not just among the prissy liberals of New York, San Francisco or the average college town. President Bush’s actions disappointed, angered and embarrassed nearly every segment of this country at some point and to some extent.

So how is it that just six months into his first term — with no new wars and his most controversial policy initiative the Good Samaritan-esque notion of health care for all — President Barack Obama has managed to become hated enough to actually warrant comparison to Bush at his lowest?

True, Obama’s approval rating remains above 50 percent, but you wouldn’t know that from the outbursts at town hall meetings across the country during the August recess — including at a forum featuring Rep. Gary Peters (D—Mich.) in West Bloomfield last week. In public appearances by politicians of all levels, protesters have raised hell about everything from the president’s healthcare plan to his citizenship.

Sure, other presidents have had to put up with such outbursts before — as I said, President Bush certainly faced his fair share of critics. But therein lies the issue: Bush was hated for his two costly, failing wars, his handling of the economy and the failure of his main policy initiatives like No Child Left Behind. Bush was hated, fairly or not, for a reason — and he was hated only after he had failed.

It’s very different with Obama. His term has just started. Far from having failed, his policies have not yet even been implemented. And even the severe economic recession that Obama inherited is dwindling.

And yet all we hear are mad jeers about the socialist takeover of America instigated by a secret Muslim, totally Kenyan, not-really American-born Chicago sleaze-bag who conned everybody into making him president.

Such nonsense from extremist nut-jobs is common, but they’re usually drowned out by voices of reason. But this time around, when the yelling starts at those town halls, Obama can find no such defenders.

Instead of booing and silencing the woman who interrupted a political event by Rep. Mike Castle (R—Del.) by demanding Obama produce a legitimate birth certificate, the crowd actually cheered, as if hearing for the first time an articulation of their most closely held beliefs. It’s been the same story at forums on healthcare across the nation — one person screams out baseless accusations about death panels and socialism and dozens more roar in support.

It’s easy to dismiss this phenomenon as a set-up, as liberals have done. They say these anti-Obama maniacs are planted by the healthcare lobby in hopes of changing the public perception of the debate. No doubt that’s a part of it, but I find it hard to believe that the crowd that roars in support of the agitators has also been planted. The problem is not that simple at all.

In November, Obama did what seemed utterly impossible even a couple of years ago: win the presidency as a black man. He did so because of his immense personal talents and organizing prowess. He won over groups into his coalition that even the most optimistic Democrat would not have thought possible.

But too easily we forget that nearly 60 million voters rejected him. For all Obama’s grace, poise and charm, nearly half the electorate thought a washed-up John McCain was still the better choice. Obama became president by getting a close majority of the country to accept him, despite all his outsider traits.

But some people will never accept him. To them, he’ll always be a secret Muslim, a Kenyan-born usurper or a socialist determined to drive white America into the ground. No matter what he accomplishes, this president will always be Barack. Hussein. Obama. A large segment of the population will never vote for him as one of them — let alone as their leader.

That is, of course, the tragedy of being a trailblazer. And that is why the mobs still roar in support when a racist madly waves a birth certificate while calling our president a liar.

Imran Syed was the Daily’s editorial page editor in 2007.

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