A news analysis in today's New York Times concluded with two benign paragraphs that ended up inciting right-wing blog squawk. From the Times, emphasis added:
"Striking a very balanced, and in many ways, neutral approach is recognized by many people in the region as not being with them, or on their side," said J. Scott Mastic, the head of Middle East and North Africa for the International Republican Institute. "It's very important that we be seen as supporting the demands of the people in the region."
How Mr. Obama manages to do that while also balancing American interests is a question that officials acknowledge will plague this historic president for months to come. Mr. Obama has told people that it would be so much easier to be the president of China. As one official put it, "No one is scrutinizing Hu Jintao's words in Tahrir Square."
An all-star team of conservative voices has pounced on that sentence to make a series of outrageous criticisms and claims. Bill Kristol wrote on the Weekly Standard blog:
Mr. Obama is right.
If you're president of China, people around the world who are fighting for freedom don't really expect you to help. If you're president of China, you don't have to put up with annoying off-year congressional elections, and then negotiate your budget with a bunch of gun-and-religion-clinging congressmen and senators. If you're president of China, you can fund your national public radio to your heart's content.
Gateway Pundit blogger Jim Hoft wrote in a post:
Of course it would.
Then he could just slaughter those disruptive Gadsden flag-waving tea partiers.
Is that what he's talking about?
Is it really that difficult for this man to tell the difference between the United States and China?... Really?
Every one of these criticisms takes a paraphrased, one-sentence attribution out of context and blows it out of proportion. The quote is included in the context of discussing the scrutiny Obama faces while trying to balance the demands of citizens in the Middle East with the United States' own interests. It precedes an official noting that "[n]o one is scrutinizing Hu Jintao's words in Tahrir Square."
The point is that foreign nationals are not scrutinizing the actions of other nations as they are those the United States. That's it. It is not a sign that Obama wishes he were a dictator, that he resents having to negotiate with Congress, or that Obama wants to "slaughter those disruptive Gadsden flag-waving tea partiers."
Further, when he was president-elect, George Bush made a much more overt mention of the ease of dictatorial rule. As CNN reported in December 2000:
CHRIS BLACK, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Frank, President- elect George W. Bush came to Capitol Hill today for the first time since the election intending to listen to congressional leaders, the bipartisan congressional leadership. But he also made it clear to them, in more than two and a half hours of meetings, that he intends to stand by his tax cut proposal and other planks in his campaign agenda.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENT-ELECT: I told all four that there were going to be some times where we don't agree with each other. But that's OK. If this were a dictatorship, it'd be a heck of a lot easier, just so long as I'm the dictator.
To recap: There is no evidence that President Obama wishes he were a dictator.