Steve Chapman looks at the long, long, long history of President Derangement Syndrome:
A new president, pursuing policies well within the political mainstream, evokes weirdly angry and intense denunciations from opponents—a reaction hard to explain in terms of anything he has actually done. Does that suggest, as Jimmy Carter insists, that their true motivation lies in racism?
No, it doesn’t, because I’m not talking about Barack Obama. I’m talking about George W. Bush and Bill Clinton — both of whom, from the day they took office, managed to convince a minority of Americans that they were not just wrong but illegitimate, dangerous, and thoroughly evil. Obama’s troubles are not exactly unprecedented.
[. . .]
So you don’t need to turn to race to explain the virulent animosity against Obama. What all the presidents who previously endured irresponsible slander had in common, after all, is that they were white.
Clinton’s experience suggests that merely being a Democrat is enough to evoke hysteria in some quarters. In matters of policy, he was about as congenial as any conservative could have hoped — cooperating with Republicans to balance the budget, advancing free trade, rejecting an international treaty banning land mines, signing welfare reform, and threatening to bomb North Korea over its nuclear program. Yet even today, many on the right regard him as an extreme liberal.
I don’t remember President Ford rousing the standard levels of derangement among his opponents, but that could be because it was before I started paying much attention to U.S. politics. Other than Ford, all the other occupants of that office seem to have generated deep animosity (Nixon? Hell yeah. Carter? Yep. Reagan? A subgenre of musical animosity. Bush I? Yep.)