Mehdi Hasan writes:
Cast your minds back to November. Barack Obama had received his “shellacking” in the midterm elections, as the Republicans regained a majority in the House of Representatives and seized control of 29 of the 50 state governorships. It was the worst midterm defeat for the Democrats since 1938. Just a week earlier the president’s approval ratings had fallen to a record low of 37%.
Fast forward six months, and the president is enjoying the “Bin Laden bounce”. His approval ratings stand at 52%, according to Gallup – up six points on April. Historians may look back on 1 May 2011, and the killing of Osama, as the day Obama secured his re-election.
But even before the al-Qaida leader was dumped in the ocean, Obama had reason to be optimistic. Just 18 months away from the next election he has no obvious or credible Republican opponent. So far, the listless lineup of potential presidential candidates resembles the characters from the bar scene in Star Wars – a motley collection of far-right loons, freaks and conspiracy theorists.
There’s the former senator, Rick Santorum, who once compared homosexuality to bestiality and paedophilia; former vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin, who has said America must stand with “our North Korean allies”; Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, who believes carbon dioxide is “not a harmful gas, it is a harmless gas”; former governor Mitt Romney, who has said he won’t appoint Muslim-Americans to his cabinet; Tea Party Congressman Ron Paul, who wants to scrap income tax and abolish the education department; and former House speaker Newt Gingrich, who published a book last year titled To Save America: Stopping Obama’s Secular-Socialist Machine. Oh, and the “birther” billionaire Donald Trump.
The heart sinks. Lamenting the presidency of George W Bush, the late JK Galbraith once remarked: “I never thought I would yearn for Ronald Reagan.” The current Republican presidential field makes one yearn for Dubya.
The tragedy is that Obama needs to be held to account – but from a leftwing, not rightwing, direction.