One of the biggest gripes about political journalism is that it often takes the ridiculous seriously. Yet there’s more to playing up the preposterous than chasing clicks and eyeballs. There is an undercurrent of fear that the crazies and idiots could actually seize control. Pointing to their foibles is a way to laugh those lunatics down.
So there was ritual significance to freshly circulated reports that, as Talking Points Memo put it, “Republicans Think Obama Is A Greater Threat Than Putin, Assad.”
Of course, the poll didn’t actually phrase it that way, instead asking respondents rate the danger of a range of potential threats. But the reason we’re discussing the poll at all is that 34 percent of Republicans said President Obama was an imminent threat to the United States. Never mind that 32 percent of British respondents said in 2002 that George W. Bush was a bigger threat to world peace than Saddam Hussein. Never mind that, as The New Yorker gamely observed, 22 percent of Democrats polled by Reuters — and 10 percent of Republicans — said the GOP itself posed an imminent threat to America. That 34 percent number rammed home every stereotype we have about wing-nut Tea Party types.