Not so long ago, Tucker Carlson was the preeminent voice of the conservative media. This week on his social media show, Carlson used his platform to speak to a convicted fraudster who claimed he had sex with Barack Obama in 1999.
My first thought was to marvel at what the former Fox News host has become, but it didn’t take long for a bigger question to arise: why focus on Obama?
Or more specifically, why are there so many people on the right always focused on Obama?
The day before Carlson’s interview went live, Megyn Kelly, another prominent conservative media personality, said to an on-air audience:
“A lot of people think the Obamas are already running the government and there’s some sort of shadow puppet situation that they’re controlling.”
Kelly didn’t specify who, exactly, believes such nonsense, but the group apparently includes former House Speaker Newt Gingrich: Two weeks ago, the Republican from Georgia appeared on Fox News and said : he has an “intuition” that Barack Obama “secretly makes decisions in the White House”.
If this really weird conspiracy theory sounds familiar, the general idea has been spreading in far-right circles for some time. In fact, just two months into Donald Trump’s presidency, Republican Mike Kelly of Pennsylvania said the former Democratic president continues to live in the nation’s capital to run a secret “shadow government.”
Clearly, conservatives are supposed to believe that Obama is not just leading a shadow government, he graduated to lead the real government.
This nonsense is far more common than it should be. Just last year, Fox Business’ Maria Bartiromo suggested the former president could secretly ‘run the country’, to which Senator Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee replied that Obama’s meetings with President Joe Biden led people to believe the former president was “the de facto leader of the White House.”
Just two months ago, Republican Rep. Greg Murphy of North Carolina said in a Fox Business interview that Biden was just a “puppet for a left-wing progressive committee, so to speak, run by Barack Obama”.
We could spend a few paragraphs stating painfully obvious facts and explaining that the former Democratic president does not secretly control the White House, but agree that such nonsense does not warrant meaningful fact-checking.
What I find more interesting is the fact that much of the right remains obsessed with Obama.
For Republicans and their media allies, a campaign against Biden at least makes sense insofar as he is the incumbent Democratic president who is preparing to seek a second term next year.
Obama, on the other hand, has been absent for nearly seven years. He cannot run for a third term and there is no reason to believe that his name will ever appear on another ballot.
It is of course possible that the right sees Obama as a popular figure whom they are quick to tarnish in the hope of some sort of partisan benefit for the Republican Party. But even if that were the goal, does anyone seriously believe that Tucker Carlson’s interview with a fraudster will affect the former Democratic president’s approval rating?
Yes, I realize the crazy claims that Obama is pulling secret strings are meant to smear Biden — the idea being that the president is old, so someone else has to do the real day-to-day work — but the idea is obviously too far-fetched. to be taken seriously.
Old habits die hard, but the right’s fixation on Obama is almost as misguided as the right’s fixation on Hillary Clinton.