Every horrendous thing one could possibly say about President Barack Obama has been said. It’s been said, repeated, blogged, taped, printed, e-mailed, syndicated, broadcasted and most likely spray painted somewhere. Some of the verbal grenades are slightly off-base. For example: you know who’s really offended by Obama being called a Nazi? Nazis. Whoa are they irked by the comparison.

You want to cheese off Hitler, call him an Obama.

So the half-Caucasian half-African leader of the free world – he’s racist. That’s why you lost your job when the plant closed in 2007. He’s a socialist, because that sounds really bad. Tyrant. Everything pejorative, dangerous and un-American – he’s that. He’ll kill us all.

George W. Bush couldn’t be challenged in the press for nearly five years. Was it deference for the office? No. He didn’t get this grace period because he was a great man. The press was scared of him. He was surrounded by a crew of thugs happy to take the low road and never above being petty. He bullied the press, cut off access, shut down communication and outed a dissenter’s wife. “Liberal” was a swear word synonymous with “retard.” It was scorched earth. Nothing was left. He bought off columnists, produced phony news stories, planted faux journalists and fabricated evidence. Anyone who questioned anything was unpatriotic. A terrorist sympathizer. Treasonous. French. Or worse, liberal. “Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists,” explained Bush.

What’s “changed” is now former Vice President Dick Cheney goes on television to warn the nation the current president, of a different party than Cheney, is going to harm America, simply because he’s of a different party than Cheney. A new low for Cheney. A new low for partisan rancor.

The current storm was birthed during the Clinton years, enhanced ten-fold by the Internet and sired enthusiastically by the Bush Administration. And then comes, by a landslide victory over a year ago, a politician who promised to bring Americans together. So in part America voted for an armistice in the war at home. We’ve yet to get it.

At his first official State of the Union Address, Obama spoke to the mood in the country. “Each time lobbyists game the system or politicians tear each other down instead of lifting this country up, we lose faith. The more that TV pundits reduce serious debates to silly arguments, big issues into sound bites, our citizens turn away. No wonder there’s so much cynicism out there. No wonder there’s so much disappointment.”

Then immediately after, right-wing blogger Michelle Malkin described the speech as “snitty.” Clearly she’s the expert. Other side-obsessives followed suit. Rudy Giuliani, The Mayor of 9/11 who recently mind-bogglingly claimed there was never a terrorist attack under Bush (err, 9/11?), said on Fox and Friends Obama never once mentioned the word “war” in the SOTU. Obama said it seven times according to the transcript, the millions of witnesses and the video.

Criticism used to be a fine art. Now it’s a carefully framed generic broad-stroked mass-reproduction that matches your chosen color scheme: Talking points. Reactions.

Two days after the SOTU a question and answer session was televised from a GOP retreat in Baltimore. There was the president, no teleprompter, answering questions, addressing issues and stating some obvious. “If there’s uniform opposition because the Republican caucus doesn’t get 100 percent or 80 percent of what you want, then it’s going to be difficult to get a deal done, because that’s not how democracy works,” said the president in a candid tone. With a smile he called out the GOP for characterizing his health care agenda as a Bolshevik plot.

It was a riveting hour of television, stunning in its openness. It was civil civic discourse – on television, for an hour. What was most shocking was when Obama stated, “And the irony, I think, of our political climate right now is that, compared to other countries, the differences between the two major parties on most issues is not as big as it’s represented.” That’s like eating disorders in Hollywood, it’s an open secret no one wants to talk about but everyone knows. The major political parties aren’t as different as we’re told, it’s true. Sad common ground isn’t more common.

The arena has been scorched and salted over the previous decades. Can this reluctant flame war president lead us out of it? Does your answer depend on if you believe in “climate change?” Perhaps.

This story originated at True/Slant